Tom Cooper called me one morning, and after a little chit-chat he said “Chancellor, you’re a life member of the DAV. Why don’t you come to one of our meetings and see what we are doing?”
Tom is the commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 17 in Hammond. We go back a ways and have a shared experience. We were both door gunners in Vietnam, and both of us were shot down during a firefight and survived. So I said, “OK, Coop, I’ll be there.” The DAV meets at 7 p.m. the first Thursday of the month at VFW Post 802 on Hohman Avenue in Hammond.
The first thing I noticed was the number of members. There had to be more than a hundred at the meeting. Then a lady named Joan Austgen was introduced. Joan is the owner of a small tavern in Highland named Bone-Dry that is across the street from where the old Romano’s drive in on Ridge Road was. She said her place had a small bike run and wanted to donate $10,000 to the DAV! Did she really just say a $10,000 donation? Are you kidding me? And that was just the beginning.
I followed Tom and his trusted sidekick, Dave Taborski, the treasurer of the organization, to Veterans Life Changing Service on Ridge Road in Gary. There Dr. Henry Hitchcock is always in the trenches trying to help struggling veterans who want to help themselves. But today the DAV is there to help him with a $5,000 donation for the cause.
Then it was on to a concert in Hobart at the County Line Orchard. Tom Collins, CEO and president of Luke Oil, the owner, was putting on a concert in his beautifully renovated facility and the proceeds were going back to the three major veterans groups in the area — the DAV, the VFW and the American Legion. Collins graciously donated $5,000 to each of the organizations. Wow! That was a $15,000 donation in one night.
After just a few months, I was in. DAV Chapter 17 is an action-oriented organization. They have two of the best service officers in the area, John Rodriquez and Jim Daugharty, who assist veterans in filing claims. This DAV is not afraid to take on any challenge that will benefit our hometown heroes.
So if you are ever in the Highland area, why don’t you stop by Bone-Dry and hoist your favorite beverage in the air and thank Joan for the donation? The same goes for Collins in Hobart.
Let’s all get together and thank the people who care enough to support organizations like the Disabled American Veterans and enable them to continue to do the wonderful work they do.