Going into a war zone takes a heavy toll on the human mind, body, and psyche. Even though disabled American veterans are always heralded as heroes, coming home can often be a difficult experience. The figures are staggering: up to 20 percent of U.S. veterans are impacted by PTSD, over 40,000 veterans are homeless, and at least 3.8 million soldiers have disabilities caused by their time in the service, according to the United States Census Bureau. Assistance is often necessary, but can sometimes be hard to come by. Even here in Boston, veterans and their loved ones don’t always receive the level of supportive services that they need.
That’s where Disabled American Veterans, or DAV, tries to make a difference. As a nonprofit comprised of those who have also served in the military, DAV has served veterans with disabilities since 1920. Nowadays, DAV assists over 1 million veterans and their families—helping them gain better employment, build better lives, bring them to medical appointments, assist them with benefit claims, as well as countless other tasks. DAV contains over 1 million members, who serve almost 1,300 chapters across the country, including many in Massachusetts.
DAV’s Famous “Can-Do” Chapter
Though every chapter does what it can to support the well-being of disabled veterans, Chapter #57 in Taunton, Massachusetts deserves special mention. Taunton has long been a city noted for publicly supporting local veterans, whether through its dedicated series of support organizations or through public monuments like the beautiful, shimmering lights of the Taunton Vietnam Memorial Fountain—a project funded by local charitable donations.
Though #57 is officially named after Corporal William F. Reardon, a man known for giving his time and energy to the cause of supporting his fellow veterans, the local branch has also been nicknamed the “Can-Do chapter,” both in honor of Reardon, and due to the organization’s tireless dedication to making things happen. Back in 2010, #57 jumped ahead of the game by launching the web series The 57 Club, a 30-minute talk show which discusses veteran affairs. Eight years later, the 57 Club has over 100 episodes under its belt and is still going strong. Meanwhile, the 57th chapter also maintains a regular presence on social media.
In the Taunton area, #57 is known as one of the area’s hallmark organizations, and they continue hosting events every year in order to raise funding and awareness. These events include monthly meetings on the third Tuesday of every month that are open to the public, as well as an annual ringing of the bell ceremony on Independence Day—a tradition which dates back to 1969, according to the Taunton Gazette. There’s also a cruise night in the summer, where all profits are donated to other local veteran organizations.
There’s Still Work to Do
Though Taunton’s DAV chapter certainly prioritizes the city’s veterans the best they can, there is still much to be done when it comes to servicing the needs of Massachusetts’s disabled military population.
A study by RAND offered the good news that Massachusetts veterans receive a better, more complete variety of services than U.S. veterans in most other states. However, this population still suffered compared to non-veterans, particularly in the areas of employment, health care, housing, and legal services. These issues were especially prevalent among newer, younger veterans. That means that while Massachusetts is clearly doing something right, the state still has room to do more. At least until a time comes when those disabled by wartime injuries are finally afforded equal opportunities, understanding, and quality of life.
Volunteer with the Disabled American Veterans‘ (DAV), Taunton Chapter to support our nation’s veterans.