Veterans support program awards truck to Fort Washakie vetsFeb 19, 2017 From staff and wire reports
The Eastern Shoshone Tribe was a recipient of a Ford vehicle this month from the Wounded Warriors Family Support's Native American Veterans Support Transportation and Resources program.
The NAVSTaR program provided 15 other vehicles to tribes in eight states.
The tribe applied for and was awarded a 2017 Ford Explorer for use by American Legion Richard Pogue Post 81out of Fort Washakie. The vehicle will be used to transport tribal veterans to medical appointments at the Veterans Affairs facilities in Sheridan and Cheyenne.
"I am grateful for this program and honored to accept this vehicle on behalf of the legion and the tribe," legion commander Gilbert Jarvis said, adding praise for the people who coordinated the effort.
Shoshone Business Council member Leslie Shakespeare coordinated with the Wounded Warriors organization and applied for the vehicle. The tribe approved the application via a resolution in June.
Shakespeare completed the application when he was the tribal liaison for Gov. Matt Mead's office. Although Shakespeare has never served in the military, he has family members who have served in every branch, including a sister who was a U.S. Marine.
"I have a deep respect for their, and every veteran's, service, so I felt it was my duty to assist in this endeavor," Shakespeare said. "All the men and women that this vehicle will benefit have paid for the right through their sacrifice of service to not only have health care benefits but to be able to access them."
Initially, the veterans who make use of the vehicle will be able to use travel benefits from Veterans Affairs to pay for gas, hotel rooms and a stipend for the driver.
"This will make a difference for a lot of veterans on the reservation who have limited means of transportation and have a need to receive health care through the VA," legion co-commander Wyman Weed said.
Too often, veterans from the Wind River Indian Reservation miss their appointments or don't bother scheduling them in Sheridan or Cheyenne, simply because they can't make the trip, veteran John Wadda said.
Shakespeare said the Shoshone tribe and Legion Post will determine a flat fee and create a maintenance fund that will allow for outside donations. The SBC also plans to create a pool of drivers.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there were more than 22,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives on active duty in 2015.
Twenty-seven American Indians have been awarded the Medal of Honor - the nation's highest military honor.
"Yet, Native American veterans, because of their isolation on remote reservations, are too often underserved and forgotten," said Col. John Folsom, USMCR (Ret.), founder and president of Wounded Warriors Family Support. "We want to help families, regardless of where they are."
Wounded Warriors Family Support stated the vehicle donations have topped $600,000. Other tribes who received a vehicle were the Black Feet Sioux, Gros Ventre, Hopis, Jemez Pueblo and Northern Cheyenne.