Helping Veterans, Families

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 14, 2006

It began more than eight decades ago as a way of reaching out to disabled GIs coming home from the battlefields of World War I.

The Disabled American Veterans continues today with more than a million members nationally. The H.B.

“Doc” Riley chapter 51 of the DAV has 100 members, a dozen of them active.

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“Our purpose is to reach out to veterans and their families,” Chapter 51 Commander Stephen Saunders said. “We are a veteran’s service organization with the emphasis on service. This is not a social organization. Our purpose is not to serve ourselves with lavish dinners but to serve other veterans, prevent suicides, keep suffering to a minimum and public education.”

The national organization provides assistance to veterans in obtaining benefits and services through their military service and lobbies lawmakers to protect and enhance those benefits for veterans.

Locally, the DAV also honors fallen soldiers with a remembrance service during the week prior to Memorial Day and a public remembrance service on Prisoners of War- Missing in Action Day. Members also organize education programs for area school children on Veterans Day.

The local DAV chapter also donates food and toys to the Ironton City Mission and soft drink can tabs to the Huntington, W.Va., Ronald McDonald House, which serves the Tri-State.

The national DAV was formed as a response to veterans returning home from World War I.

Saunders said the local group was first chartered in 1935.

“It is named for Doc Riley, a local man who donated property to us. The group disbanded a time or two after that and a lot is not known about it then. But it underwent a major overhaul about seven years ago and we grew as new members came in.”

The DAV will assist any veteran with a service-connected disability recognized by the U.S. Veterans Administration, any ex-prisoner of war or any Military Order of the Purple Heart recipient.

Chapter 51 meets the second Tuesday of each month in the second floor conference room of the Ironton City Center.