GarCo vets can have free rides through new program

RIFLE — Pete “Doc” McGuire gets by on a Veterans Affairs pension, drives a sometimes-troublesome vehicle and suffers from a host of medical problems.

So the 61-year-old Vietnam vet was grateful to be able to take advantage of a new program providing free transportation to needy vets.

The nonprofit program is called Vet-Trans, and is directed by Joe Carpenter, also veterans service officer for Garfield and Pitkin counties.

McGuire so appreciated the assistance that he has returned the favor by becoming a volunteer driver.

“Vet-Trans has served me pretty well, and I have tried to give back,” McGuire said.

Carpenter is requesting a $37,300 contribution from Garfield County for the program, to help pay for expenses such as fuel and meals for drivers, all of whom are vets.

Carpenter says there are roughly 6,000 veterans in Garfield County, and probably 80 percent of them are over 50.

“We have hundreds of needy veterans in this valley,” he said.

About 300 have transportation needs, such as to VA medical centers in Grand Junction or Salt Lake City.

“It’s quite common for these guys to be living on anywhere from $700 to $900 per month,” Carpenter said. “The only way they can get to Grand Junction is by us or hitchhiking, and I can’t let them (hitchhike).”

McGuire has a bad heart, high blood pressure and diabetes and has fought to control his weight. He gets some housing assistance and provides for himself and his Pomeranian, Boo, on a pension of about $900 a month. But others have it worse.

“There’s guys who are sightless, there are guys who have multiple sclerosis, some guys have cancer, some guys are just plain poor. They really can’t afford anything. We really do our best to run them around, get them to appointments,” he said.

The county is drawing up a contract, and commissioners are scheduled to act on Carpenter’s request Tuesday. Commissioner John Martin is supportive.

“We need to start taking care of our vets,” Martin said.

Said McGuire, “I firmly believe that any help we can give anybody who has served our country is going to be greatly appreciated because many of these guys are alone and we’re in the twilight of our (lives) here,” he said.

For information, call 625-9484.


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