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VALPARAISO | Carlos Arambula often wore a hat signifying he is a Purple Heart recipient.

While out and about, Arambula, of Valparaiso, was approached by other veterans asking where they could get help securing their benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"So many veterans said, 'I need help,'" Arambula said.

He often told veterans about the Disabled American Veterans chapter in Hammond. However, that was too far for some to commute.

Arambula, past department commander and current chapter adviser, said he had to come up with a solution. He collaborated with other DAV members after noticing a need to help veterans in Porter County.

After two years of planning, DAV Chapter 102 was born. Chapter officers were sworn in Thursday night at VFW Post 988 with state and national DAV officials in attendance.

State Commander Terry Sanders had two messages for the chapter: don’t stop recruiting, and work with other veterans organizations.

"Make an alliance with them," he said. "Work together." 

Sanders also presented the charter to chapter officers.

To date, the chapter has about 30 members, said Mitch Mullins, chapter adjutant.

In total, there are about 1.3 million members of the DAV, while there are about 17,000 members in Indiana, said Kevin Coley, state adjutant.

Coley reminded members of the current situation regarding funding VA facilities. In late June, the VA announced it is facing a budget shortfall of $2.5 billion, due to increased demand by veterans for health care, according to the Associated Press.

The VA is seeking funds from the new Veterans Choice program to pay for the health care. Congress approved $10 billion over three years for the Veterans Choice program.

"If they can’t get funding, facilities will close," Coley said.

While DAV is closing chapters nationally, Indiana has opened new chapters within recent years, due to an increasing need, Arambula said.

A new chapter opened in Southern Indiana last year. Within the last few years, Arambula said the Hammond chapter’s meetings saw an average of 150 to 200 veterans a night by veterans reaching others through word-of-mouth.

"We can probably do the same thing here," he said.

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.