For the past year, David Vaughn has dedicated his Tuesdays and Thursdays to his fellow veterans.
"We usually have 2 vans that go out and we usually do north of 690 and south of 690,” said Vaughn. “Could be eight riders up to as many as 14 or 15 riders a day.”
Vaugh takes vets to their medical appointments through the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Volunteer Transportation Network at the Syracuse VA.
"It's a good way to give back to help the veterans that served this country and laid their lives on the line,” said Vaughn.
Those vets continue to fight to survive, with help from their doctors.
But also volunteer drivers, like Vaughn and Ed Rahn.
"I think a lot of them wouldn't be able to get here without us,” said Rahn, who has been volunteering for the past three years. “They'd either be paying a lot of money for rides or try to get family members to help them."
"If we don't have the drivers, we have to turn vets away,” said Edward Rogers, the DAV Volunteer Transportation Network Hospital Service coordinator. “So, that's why it's so important to have as many volunteer drivers as possible, and you don't have to be a veteran to be a volunteer."
While the program covers 14 counties, there's a pressing need in Tompkins, Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Chenango counties.
Rogers hopes to recruit at least 25 volunteers for each area.
"Our program used to have a little over 300 volunteer drivers and it was operating pretty good, but now we're down to about 140,” said Rogers.
Last year, drivers traveled 880,564 miles and transported 20,725 veterans.
For many, it's more than just a ride.
"You get to share the camaraderie with them,” said Vaughn. “You get to listen to the stories. These guys are full of stories from their time in the service."
It's the key to their happiness and good health.
"I took one fella home a couple of years ago,” said Rahn. “When I let him out, I said 'I hope you have a nice a day,’ and he said, ‘you've already done that for me,’ so that's why I do it.'"
It's another way to thank vets for their service.
There aren't many requirements to become a volunteer driver.
You need to be 21, have a valid driver's license, pass a homeland security background check and a health physical.
For those interested in volunteering, contact Bill Gleason (315) 425-4343 or email Ed Rogers at Edward.email@example.com.