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Published June 18, 2022

Making a Difference: Disabled American Veterans

Written by
Lydia Hoverson
| The Dakotan
(Left to right) Doug Benjamin, Wesley Baird, Ron Garcia. DAV Chapter 4 Commander Benjamin and Sr. Vice Commander Garcia present DAV scholarship award to MSU Veteran Wesley Baird in Fall of 2021. [Photo: Skip Gjerde, Adjutant for the Minot DAV]
(Left to right) Doug Benjamin, Wesley Baird, Ron Garcia. DAV Chapter 4 Commander Benjamin and Sr. Vice Commander Garcia present DAV scholarship award to MSU Veteran Wesley Baird in Fall of 2021. [Photo: Skip Gjerde, Adjutant for the Minot DAV]

MINOT — If a veteran has any disability relating to their service in the military, there is a national organization called Disabled Americans Veterans (DAV) which will help those who have served the nation by providing a place where they can socialize with other disabled veterans, and it aids in filling out the confusing paperwork that is required for their compensation.

Since 1920, when the DAV started, Minot has become home to Chapter 4, Minot being the fourth location.

(Left to right back row) Andy Heitkamp, Ric Montoya, (front row left to right) Loren Headrick, Paul Engeldinger, Warren Anderson, Rob McRae, Skip Gjerde, and Chuck Emery. DAV Chapter 4 members in partnership with MSU Military Resource Staff gave area elementary students instruction in American Flag etiquette and proper flag folding at a Market Place for Kids event on the Campus of MSU in late 2021. [Photo: submitted by Skip Gjerde, Adjutant for the Minot DAV]

Doug Benjamin, commander of the Minot DAV, said any veteran with a service-connected disability can become a member.

“We have over a million members nationally, and we have about 440 locally here in Minot,” said Benjamin. “Our local chapter, we’re very proud of the fact that we make a lot of donations to different veteran organizations in the state.”

Those organizations include the Veterans Home in Lisbon, the Veterans Cemetery in Mandan, the Western North Dakota Honor Flight, Warriors on the Water ND, and the Northwest Veterans Stand Down. The DAV raises these funds through its annual raffle fundraiser. The DAV has raised more than $20,000 this year, according to Benjamin.

(Left to right) DAV Volunteers Mike Knoop, Jim Weaver, Jonnie Skalicky and Rex Sisco helped load food boxes into cars during the Great Plains food Bank event. [Photo: Skip Gjerde, Adjutant for the Minot DAV]

“Our mission is to assist any disabled veteran with any problem that they have. If we don’t have the answer for them, we find someone who does,” Benjamin explained. “There’s nothing wrong with the other organizations, I’m a member of [a lot] of them, and they all do good work. They’re all doing the same thing just from a different angle. They’re all out there to help veterans.”

The members have scheduled meetings the second Thursday of every month, where they conduct their business.

“We don’t have a lot of expenses, because we meet at the veteran’s room at the county administration building. So, we don’t have any overhead there. None of our people get paid anything,” Benjamin explained. “We do have our coffee socials on the first and third Wednesday of every month, and that is open to any veteran. Any veteran that just wants to stick his head in there and find out a little bit about us. We have coffee and donuts, [and that’s] in the same place, the veterans room.”

(Left to right) DAV Chapter 4 Volunteers Dave Van Lith, Dale Braun, Pete Burkhardsmeier and Doug Benjamin helped place flags on veterans graves the Saturday prior to Memorial Day 2022. [Photo: Skip Gjerde, Adjutant for the Minot DAV]

Benjamin said Chapter 4 was named the most outstanding chapter in the state at the state convention in 2019, and 2021, as there was no convention in 2020.

“We’re very fortunate to live in a community that supports veterans as well as the city of Minot does,” Benjamin expressed. “When we go out for our raffle sales or our flag day event or anything else, and not just us, we’re so well accepted in this town. If a guy is disabled, we help him to get into the VA program. Sometimes it’s difficult to navigate the federal government’s paperwork, and we have some people that understand that. Sometimes it takes years before you get satisfactory judgement. I’ve known veterans who’ve had problems and tried to file themselves, and have approved, finally, after years and years of fighting it, only to die a couple months later.”

The chapter also puts on a flag day event on June 14, where lunch is provided with a presentation on the history of the flag and a flag folding ceremony. More information on the Disabled American Veterans can be found here.

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