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Colorado Trust helps tame the wild West.

In the days of the Old West, Montana cowboys would drive cattle for hundreds of miles, caring for them every step of the way against harsh weather and nature's dangers. Today, the DAV Transportation Network volunteers travel the state offering care and compassion as they help sick and disabled veterans receive VA health care and services-thanks to the Colorado Trust.

Montana is a big place with a small population. A trip to the VA medical center at Fort Harrison, a suburb of the capital city of Helena, is a major excursion for many, but it's a trip that Transportation Network volunteers take every day. Yet there are just 5,200 DAV members in Montana to help support such a costly Transportation Network that covers 145,552 square miles. With limited financial resources, the Department of Montana depends on the DAY's Colorado Trust to help provide necessary support for programs to help disabled veterans and their families.

"Montana is a very special case, and it is the ultimate example of why the Colorado Trust was created," said National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson. "The Colorado Trust was created as a tool in which Chapters and Departments with substantial financial reserves could use their funds to help other Chapters and Departments with critical needs, but which lack the financial resources necessary to sustain programs."

"One of the great success stories of the Colorado Trust is Montana," he said. "The Transportation Network there does an incredible job, traveling long distances in less than optimum weather, to get our sick and disabled veterans to their VA medical appointments and return them home again."

"Our veterans love our Transportation Network," said Department of Montana Adjutant Wayne E. Mooney. "Everywhere we take a van we get new volunteer drivers. There are always volunteers. But without the Colorado Trust and the volunteers we wouldn't be here."

Montana is called the "Big Sky Country" because there's a lot of land beneath that big sky. With a population of just over 902,000, Montana has only 6.2 people per square mile. By comparison, one Washington, D.C., suburb-Fairfax County, Va.-has a population of more than a million people, and nearly 2,500 persons per square mile.

The VA estimates Montana has 105,000 veterans, and slightly more than 26,000 of them were treated during 2003, according to the latest figures available. The Fort Harrison VA Medical Center, a nursing home at Miles City; and nine outpatient clinics throughout the state had 2,343 inpatient admissions and 220,029 outpatient visits in 2003.

The Transportation Network provided 19,173 rides for veterans to VA medical facilities in Montana during 2004, according to the latest figures available. Volunteer drivers donated nearly 40,000 hours behind the wheel driving more than one million miles across wide prairies and around towering peaks, sometimes in harrowing weather. That's a phenomenal average of 55 miles round trip for each ride provided.

It's a big job that would be nearly impossible in Big Sky Country without the Colorado Trust. The Department of Montana has received assistance to purchase vans to support the Transportation Network, as well as grants to support its Hospital Service Coordinator Program, which schedules the vans to support VA medical center patients.

"Without the Colorado Trust there would be a lot of Montana veterans hurting," said Mooney. "These veterans would be without medical care. There are a lot of senior veterans here-the World War II and Korean War generation-who can't get to the hospital. From where I live the VA hospital is 150 miles away. I want to thank the DAY Colorado Trust for all it's done for the veterans of Montana."

The Colorado Trust was formed in 1996 when Adjutant Wilson was searching for ways to more fairly distribute resources to support worthy service programs.

The Trust is a restricted fund within the DAV National Service Foundation, and its funds are strictly limited to service for veterans and their families. The Trust makes grants that directly sustain service programs.

"It is important that Departments and Chapters continue to seek new ways to provide services to disabled veterans and their families," said Adjutant Wilson. "This willingness to work together continues to make the Colorado Trust an amazing service resource."
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Title Annotation:DAV Transportation Network
Author:Wilborn, Thom
Publication:DAV Magazine
Geographic Code:1U8MT
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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