JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — More than 20 years may have passed, but Jim Childers’ dedication to helping disabled veterans has only grown stronger.
The odometer on the van belonging to the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 16 of Jacksonville has been spinning for years as Childers drives fellow veterans to and from their appointments at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals in Durham, Chapel Hill and Fayetteville. To date, Childers has accumulated more than 157,000 miles on the route and has helped more than 1,300 veterans — but he doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon, he said. Childers’ mileage accumulation has been recognized nationally as the most miles logged by any individual driver with the DAV, and for his volunteerism he was recognized with the Long Leaf Pine in October of 2013.
“It feels great to help veterans in need,” Childers said of the many veterans in Onslow County who rely on the DAV’s van services for transportation due to their service-connected disabilities. “It’s a way for physically able veterans to help other veterans get the services and medical treatment they deserve.”
After retiring from civil service in 1997, Childers knew that he wanted to help veterans receive their medical needs, and when the DAV offered him the opportunity to use their van, he knew he could make a difference, he said. Most veterans, he added, do not have the financial means or support in order to travel to VA hospitals across the state, which is why he feels volunteering his time is worth it.
As long as he is physically able to drive, Childers said he will continue to drive for the DAV, which he does upward of six days per week.
“The most rewarding thing is when we return back to the chapter and a veteran says thank you for making it possible for them to get to their doctor’s appointment,” he said.
The Disabled American Veterans, according to Doug Lawson, a veteran service officer with the organization, is a group of veterans taking care of other veterans. Accomplishing the goal of getting the disabled veterans to the appointments, he said, would be an impossible feat if it weren’t for Childers and the time he volunteers to the organization.
“I think it is in his DNA to help veterans in any way possible, day or night,” Lawson said. “Because of dedicated drivers like him, it is a lot easier to get all of the veterans to their needed VA appointments. Most veterans get burnt out either physically or mentally working that many hours with no pay. Not Jim.”
Steve Tate, a Vietnam-era veteran uses the DAV’s transportation services and, on many occasions, has had Childers as his driver. What Childers does, according to Tate, is “special” — giving and compassionate describe the type of person he is.
Without Childers and his dedication to driving other veterans around the state, Tate said that he would not be able to make his appointments because he does not drive due to service-connected disabilities and his wife also does not drive. Childers, according to Tate, is funny and dedicated, and while it may be unusual to find someone like him, Childers is a true blessing, he said.
“What Jim does makes me feel like I’m not alone,” Tate said. “The DAV services and what Jim does mean that there is always a veteran there to help their fellow veterans.”
Currently the DAV only has three daily drivers and roughly six part-time drivers.