By Anna Jauhola
Kittson County veterans who need rides to medical appointments now have a free, local option.
The Disabled American Veterans Chapter 41, which is based in Middle River, Minn., has purchased and based a van in Hallock to provide this service in the county. It’s been a work in progress, but the group finally got a van equipped to transport as many as eight veterans.
During the Kittson County Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 7, Veteran Services Officer Wayne Jacobson excitedly informed the board about the vehicle.
“If you notice out in the parking lot, we’ve got a van sitting there!” he said. “It’s a 2018 Ford van, with 42,500 miles on it. Tomorrow, C&M Ford is going to put new tires on it. The license plates are good until December. Shawn Anderson has agreed to kind of be in charge of the van and scheduling and stuff, and he’s talked to a couple other people who can fill in.”
This process began in October 2022 when Jim Butler, commander for the DAV Chapter 41, visited the commission requesting space to park a van. Chapter 41 serves Kittson, Marshall, Roseau, Lake of the Woods and Pennington counties. The van itself is entirely covered by the DAV – gas, maintenance, licensing, etc. The only cost to the county is that parking space and a plug-in for winter time.
Shawn Anderson, who lives in Hallock, said when he found out Kittson County didn’t have any transportation for veterans to medical appointments, he was shocked and wanted to help. When he retired last year, Anderson began giving veterans rides using his own vehicle and has worked closely with Jacobson and Chapter 41 to get the van to Hallock. He is the sole volunteer driver at this time, but said he’s talked to other people who are willing to help out if he’s busy.
“Shawn has put a lot of work into it already,” Jacobson said. “He’s taken the van, he’s gone through it, he’s cleaned it all up, washed it and taken it to C&M Ford for service and tires.”
Jacobson said any veteran who needs a ride to a medical appointment can get a ride, totally free of charge. Anderson said they can transport locally to Hallock and Karlstad facilities, as well as regionally to clinics or hospitals in Thief River Falls, Grand Forks, Crookston, Grafton and Fargo. Jacobson said the VA Hospital in Fargo will be on the regular schedule. Trips any further than that may require special arrangements, Jacobson said.
This van is not handicapped accessible, however the DAV has a handicapped-accessible van stationed in Salol that will come to Kittson County when a veteran needs a ride. It has been noted that spouses can ride with veterans to their medical appointments if the veteran needs assistance. But the van is not for transporting spouses who are not veterans to their own medical appointments.
The commission thanked Jacobson and Anderson for their hard work in getting the van based in Kittson County.
“It’s a very good program, I think,” said Commissioner Nathan Kraulik.
“It’s a great deal,” agreed Commissioner Leon Olson.
By Anna Jauhola