EAU CLAIRE Wisc. (WLAX/WEUX) – A special service is going the extra mile for veterans and their families in the Chippewa Valley.

“Any vet that needs a ride is free.” One van run by the Eau Claire County Veteran Services is helping Chippewa Valley veterans get to the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital in Minneapolis at no cost.

“…a big need is just getting to medical appointments, if you get to medical appointments, you’re just a lot healthier and can do a lot more…if that’s slowing our veterans down from getting the help they need then if it’s as simple as getting a van then we’re going to do it”, said Adam Kohls

Assistant director of veteran’s services for the county, Adam Kohls says getting a van to service vets has been a long time coming

“As we’re doing this, we kind of dug into our files and there were talks about getting one the early 2000’s…so we just, we just dug deep into this and we finally got it”

Through the help of community donations, veteran services were able to buy a wheelchair-accessible van in 2018.

“They’re here for us. That’s what’s important.”, said Peter Holemen, one of the original riders. He says he enjoys the sense of camaraderie and being able to save some money.

“It’s nice for us veterans to get together and meet each other and talk too and along with the drivers…but the van has helped save me from spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars…”

Due to the pandemic, Kohls says the van has had to cut back on trips. “We used to go three days a week and then COVID hit and now it’s more like once a week.” Part of that reason is driver shortages. The van’s drivers are all volunteers.

“Again, that’s part of the reason again we’re only going once a week. We’re always looking for more drivers. The more drivers we have, the more trips we can do.”, said Khols.

Holeman hopes more drivers come forward because the van doesn’t just help the vets, it helps those who love them too.

Holmen said, “It does benefit us and our families. You can’t forget the families that have to put up with us…I highly recommend it to anyone. “

The van goes to and from the VA hospital every Tuesday. It typically leaves Eau Claire at 7 a.m. and leaves Minneapolis around 3 pm. To find out how to schedule a ride or be a volunteer driver, you can go to our website.