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Veterans Transport

By Michael Bromka For Vietnam War veteran Milton Limbert without breakfast, leaving his house at 8 a.m is a hurdle. After locking up, Milton turns to face a fellow Army veteran standing at attention, saluting and saying —“From this veteran to you sir, I salute you. Thank you for your service. Welcome home.”Milton returns the salute. He’s fasted in prep for a blood test. Armando Luna arrives as scheduled to ferry him to Artesia’s Veterans Administration (V.A.) clinicat 2410 W. Main St. Although not official, Armando’s salute and praise bespeak the joy he takes in his duties as volunteer driver for Southeast New Mexico Veteran’s Transportation Network (hereafter SE NM VTN). This group transports veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces to medical appointments in Artesia, Lubbock, Albuquerque (by relay through Artesia and Roswell) —wherever needed —free of charge.Milton is glad for the lift. He’s happy to tool around Carlsbad in his aging pickup. But conducting out at own journeys is best left to others.On the way to Artesia, voluble Armando happily relates (upon inquiry) specifics of his service and philosophy. Age 70, native to Carlsbad, he’s lived in California and served in the Army in Germany. A devout Christian since 1971, Armando survived cocaine, alcohol, 2003 cancer, and divorce. Neither prior Armed Forces service nor a personal religious mission is required to volunteer driving for SE NM VTN. Upon arrival at the Artesia V.A. Clinic, Milton enters to check in and do his bloodwork. In the parking lot, Armando confers with fellow volunteers Mike Wade, Clyde Long, and Norbert Rempe. Each drives a Network van.The wheelchair-accommodating van is simple. A sturdy non-mechanized ramp pulls out to allow easy roll-on and roll-off. The lock-braked chair and veteran can then be securely belted in.After Milton’s blood draw, it’s agreed that your correspondent switch van-&-driver to accompany another Army vet on her trip home to woodsy “God’s country,” chauffeured by Carlsbad’s Norbert Rempe (who served in the West German military, and naturalized U.S. citizen since 1979).A native of Carlsbad, the U.S. Army vet worked in elder care before enlisting during the Carter era.Her two hitches took her back east, to Europe, and the Pacific Northwest. Mustering out under Bush 41, she earned her college degrees, tutored locally, and worked with teens. As well, she continued to care for aging elders.Moving to a rural setting, she’s done telephone work from home. She’s grateful to volunteer drivers of SE NM VTN for transport to-&-from health checkups twice per year in Artesia.Whether serving in war or peacetime, all honorably discharged U.S. Armed Forces veterans are eligible for medical treatment at V.A. facilities. To register, computer-savvy vets can google VAform10-10ez and fill it out online. Pen-to-paper vets (and locally to make a medical appointment) phone the Artesia V.A. Clinic 575 746-3531.Once an appointment is set, the veteran (or helper) should phone SE NM VTN’s Roswell office 575 622-0729. Currently, office manager Alice Wood dispatches. Donations are gladly accepted toward insurance, maintenance, and fueling the vans.The Southeast New Mexico Veteran’s Transportation Network needs more safe, skilled drivers. Potential volunteers, please phone Alice! In Carlsbad to help this patriotic endeavor, a volunteer can call Norbert Rempe 575 361-0175. With proper check of license and driving safety record, new volunteers are always gratefully appreciated. Let’s help bring our worthy local Veterans to their medical appointments!Southeast New Mexico Veteran’s Transportation NetworkRoswell SE NM VTNPresident Magil Duran 575 626-7311Office Manager Alice Wood 575 622-0729. Carlsbad SE NM VTNNorbert Rempe 575 361-0175

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