Veterans' journey to Grand Junction could get easier

Local veterans will have an easier time getting to the Veteran's Affairs Hospital in Grand Junction in a few weeks.

Moffat County Commis-sioners approved an agreement Tuesday between the county and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 in Craig for the use of a van to drive vets to Grand Junction.

Commissioners also approved a second employee for the Veteran's Service Office. The new employee will drive vets to the hospital so the Veteran's Service Officer can stay in town.

The county VSO makes between 30 and 40 trips to the hospital in Grand Junction every year. Including time at the hospital, the trips commonly take more than 10 hours.

Vets currently make the trip in an old police car donated by Craig Ford.

Bob Harrington, one of the vets who regularly makes the trip to Grand Junction, said he's looking forward to having the van.

The police car can be cramped, Harrington said, esp-ecially because he is 6 feet 4 inches tall and has bad circulation.

"If there are more than two or three people, I have to squeeze in the back," Harrington said.

The van and its operating expenses will come from a state grant and won't cost the county any money.

The agreement also puts the driver under the county's insurance.

Charley Watkins, the local vet who spearheaded the effort to help get vets to Grand Junction, said freeing the driver from any insurance liability is important.

"That's something that really has concerned me," Watkins said.

In the past, drivers have hit elk and rocks in the road on the way to Grand Junction.

Watkins said the van is in town but the VFW can't pick it up until the check from the state comes through. He said the check should arrive "any day now."

The old police car will be auctioned to raise money to cover the cost of driving vets to Grand Junction when the grant money runs out.

Commissioners said the agreement is a "win-win" for the county.

"This is going to help the veterans, but it isn't a commitment for additional county money," Commissioner Tom Gray said.

Gray said he hopes there is a Veteran's Affairs clinic in Northwest Colorado before the grant runs out, but in the meantime, the agreement will help.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031 or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com

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