A driven patriot
Charles Crosby has been driving the Disabled American Veterans van for the past 19 years to bring his fellow veterans to the Veterans Affairs Clinic in Alexandria. He is pictured here alongside the van that stays parked at the Lincoln Road Fire Station. (Gazette photo by Tony Marks)
By: TONY MARKS
For many service members in the U. S. Military, their time of service does not end upon getting discharged. They continue to serve in one capacity or another. One service member, in particular who resides in Ville Platte, has continued to serve by driving the Disabled American Veterans van for nearly two decades.
Next year will mark 20 years that Charles Crosby has been driving the van. After working for Ensco Marine as a chief engineer on an offshore supply vessel in 1998, he expressed interest in driving the van.
“I retired from my job in March 1998,” he explained. “I had some friends who were drivers, and I asked them what I needed to do to drive because I wanted to be a driver also. I had to get processed at the VA to check my health and background. I was accepted, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Crosby is one of three drivers from Ville Platte who brings local veterans to the Veterans Affairs Clinic in Alexandria. “We have a set pick up point here in town at the Northside Civic Center, and the veterans meet us drivers there,” he said. “We leave there at 6:00 in the morning. I have come back as late as 3:00 p.m., and I’ve come back as early as 10:00 a.m.”
“Now the VA has made a ruling that we have to leave from over there not later than 12:00 p.m.,” he added.
“It means a lot to me to be able to serve,” said the 81-year-old Crosby. “I would be disappointed if I wouldn’t be able to do it. One day I’m going to have to stop on account of my age.”
“I feel like it’s very important for other people to get involved not just because I’m a veteran,” he added. It’s important because if it wouldn’t be for people in the military and veterans then we wouldn’t have a country. Our country was founded by the Revolution, and that’s military.”
Crosby’s military career started when he was drafted in November 1959 at the age of 23. He served in the army for six years and was stationed in bases across the country. He was first stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, then Fort Richardson in Alaska, and finally Fort Benning in Georgia before going to Korea.
“I stayed 13 months in Korea from 1965 to 1966,” Crosby said. “It was cold in the winter and hot in the summertime. I was in the 81-millimeter mortar section, and then I got promoted to section leader. We had three mortar guns in our section, and I was in charge of the crew.”
Upon returning from Korea, Crosby was stationed at Fort Polk in Leesville. “I’m surprised I didn’t get sent to Vietnam because the Vietnam War was going on at that time,” he said. “Apparently, the high ranking people in the military figured that I was more valuable here because I was training replacements for Vietnam.”
He was discharged in July 1967. From there Crosby went to work in Morgan City before going work off shore. As he said, “I came to Ville Platte in 1984, and I’ve been here since then.”
Crosby, the Michigan native, graduated high school in 1954 before going work at his uncle’s sanitation business. He then worked a couple stints for General Motors in Flint, Mich., before being drafted into the army. “I got laid off from General Motors a second time, and then I got a job at the little foundry,” he explained. “I worked there until I got drafted. I haven’t lived in Michigan since.”
He is also active in the DAV in another area besides driving the van. He serves as the chaplain for DAV Chapter 41. “We say a prayer before the meeting starts and when the meeting ends,” Crosby said. “Between meetings actually I hardly do anything as for as the chaplain is concerned. If somebody is sick or wants to see somebody to pray with, I’ll do it if somebody asks me.”
Crosby is also a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, life member of American Legion, life member of the National Rifle Association, and the Knights of Columbus.
He expressed what it means to him to be able to serve his fellow veterans in the capacity of driving the DAV van. “I feel thankful that I’m able to do it, and I get the feeling that I’m helping some veterans,” he commented. “That’s important to me.”
“I’ve been fortunate that the veterans who ride my van are all friendly and courteous,” he continued. “I guess during my 19 years that I’ve been driving the van that I had three that were disrespectful. They felt like they were doing me a favor by riding my van to the VA, but actually it’s the other way around. I’m doing them a favor.”