DAV Race Helps Veterans
Memorial Day is more than a celebration of the past. As the yearly day of remembrance approaches, other events celebrate not only those who gave their lives but also others who live every day with service-related disabilities.
One of those events is the yearly DAV Memorial 5K Race at the veterans memorial in Carthage. Racers, walkers and spectators turned out last week in bigger numbers than ever to compete, enjoy the day, and help Disabled American Veterans. Local DAV Chapter 83 raises money this way every year to cover costs of transporting disabled veteran for medical care and other needed services.
First across the finish line last Saturday was a soldier, a West Point graduate who also coaches track at Pinecrest High School.
Maj. Emili Potter, in the Army’s world class athlete program out of Fort Carlson, Colo., is training here at Fort Bragg. She was the overall finisher of the day with a time of 17 minutes, 53 seconds — the only runner to come in under 18 minutes, the best time of the day.
“I’m a soldier,” she said, catching her breath after besting 250 or so other runners in the three-mile run. “Really, I am a marathon runner; but I like to do short races, you know, for speed work training.”
She considers this particular run a must, considering the cause it supports.
“I have to do this race!” Potter exclaimed with a broad grin. “My husband’s whole family is in town this weekend, but I said, ‘I’m sorry — you guys are on your own this morning; I gotta go do this race.’ I don’t want to miss this one.”
Chapter 83 bought a van with proceeds from other events and has so far logged more than 20,000 miles carrying veterans to VA hospitals or up to Greensboro for re-evaluation of service-related health issues.
“That’s great,” Potter said. “It’s a great organization.”
She will hit her 10-year mark as a soldier this week, having tossed her cap with other graduates nearly a decade ago. At Pinecrest, she coaches girls’ distance, where she says she has fun working with Jennie Cunningham.
“She’s really a superstar,” Potter said. “It is a lot of fun working with her and other kids. Just in the immediate future, she is definitely going to win state multiple times. She will do very well in college, and then who knows? So much about running is that inner drive. That’s why it is so much fun watching her. She has great natural racing instincts. It’s amazing.”
Kellam Becket, of Pinehurst, came running in just then, top male finisher. As a student, he could not accept his $150 cash prize. They awarded him — along with other winners and placers from student age groups — a medallion.
Volunteers handed out fresh fruit and cold water from one pavilion, while at another veterans grilled burgers and dogs and passed out packaged chips. At another, they sold dollar tickets for drawings. There were so many items donated by local merchants that it took well over an hour and a half to draw winning tickets and pass out prizes.
Purser in the Running
Gold’s Gym and The Body Shop donated memberships, Sand Hills Theatre gave out movie passes, and there was box upon box of backpacks, stuffed critters and other things.
From time to time a ticket number was misread, and an eager would-be winner disappointed as correction was made. When that happened twice to one woman, they gave her a prize anyway.
Moore County Superintendent of Schools Susan Purser raced, saying she liked a challenge. Some of the runners were themselves disabled veterans. Other veterans walked the course.
The DAV is made up exclusively of men and women disabled in the nation’s defense. According to the organization’s mission statement, it is “dedicated to one, single purpose — building better lives for all our nation’s disabled veterans and their families.”
Founded in 1920 after the First World War, the DAV is a congressionally chartered nonprofit association of more than 1.3 million U.S. military veterans, all of whom suffered some degree of disability while serving in a time of war or armed conflict.
90 Percent Stays Here
It is entirely funded by dues and contributions and receives no federal funding. There is never any charge for helping veterans, and no disabled veteran is required to be a DAV member to receive assistance. The organization also provides disaster relief to disabled veterans affected by catastrophes such as tornadoes, hurricanes and floods.
The local chapter helps provide free, professional assistance in obtaining benefits and services earned through military service whether provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs or other agencies.
“We have service officers who train every year to help with the mountain of paperwork before putting in a claim,” said Marc Phillips, of the local chapter, himself a van driver. “Our new van transports three or four every week to the VA hospital in Fayetteville. I spend one day a week driving. We try to get their appointments scheduled for the morning so we will get back home. Everything we do is with volunteers. Ninety percent of what we raise stays here; 10 percent goes to the state organization.”
The DAV lobbies for the interests of disabled veterans, their families, widowed spouses and orphans before the Congress, the White House and the Judicial Branch as well as state and local government.
It provides a structure through which disabled veterans themselves can express their own compassion through a variety of volunteer programs. In Moore County, veterans can telephone (910) 949-4155 to reach the local chapter.
A Memorial Day service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday in The Village Chapel in Pinehurst.
Contact John Chappell by e-mail at jfchappell@gmail. com
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