Members of American Legion Post #163 didn’t let a little cloudy, rainy weather deter them from meeting at Roger Williams Auto Mall.
The showroom was packed on Friday with excited veterans as they took ownership of a certified pre-owned Chrysler Town & Country van donated by the Williams Auto Group.
The van replaced an older model used in the Veteran’s Transport Assistant Program, (VTAP).
“The VTAP offers Veterans many travel solutions to and from their VA and VA health care facilities,” said Ron Chandler, Adjutant Hubmaster for the American Legion. “The van will enable the American Legion to continue their efforts in assisting Parker County Veterans with safe and reliable transportation - and no cost to veterans.”
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Chandler said the service began in 2007 with the late Chuck Katlic, and current VTAP chairman Russ Herrick, providing free transportation to Veterans in need.
“At that time they used their own vehicles but we quickly realized it was a liability to them, both in cost and insurance,” Chandler said. “Post #163 officers suggested we try to obtain our own vehicle for this very much needed service to our Veterans - so it all began.”
Katlic and Chandler began to solicit support to raise funds for a van, and soon after spoke at a local women's business group, where they met Carolyn and Bob Estes.
“Carolyn pulled together a group of families in Weatherford and purchased a 2003 Town & Country that was titled to Post #163 in 2008,” Chandler said. “We have since driven more than 100,000 miles, making about 600 trips, servicing 2 to 4 veterans each time.”
Chandler said Herrick has been the chairman of the VTAP since it began in 2007 and has kept the van in good working condition. Recently, however, maintenance costs were simply out pacing the donations taken in to keep it safely on the road.
“Reaching out to the community, once again, has really paid off,” Chandler added. “We wrote a letter to Roger Williams Auto Group and they responded quickly with a phone call from Public Relations Director, Brenda Stewart who helped make the event on Friday a reality.”
Chandler said [the Post] is very appreciative of the support from the Roger Williams Auto Group, and others including Anne Hollis, of Just Wrap It, for the “awesome” wrap they put on the van, and others that supported the event.
“Because of these patriots our Parker County Veterans will continue to have the much needed transportation to the VA and VA medical and healthcare facilities,” Chandler said.
Sabrina Williams, store manager for the auto group, said they are happy to be a part of it.
“We’re glad we could help,” she said. “Anytime we can help our veterans it’s an amazing feeling.”
J.J. Williams, also a store manager, echoed similar sentiments.
“Because of our veterans we get to open our doors everyday and we’re able to sell cars and do the things we do,” she said.