In a small community in Northern New Mexico, there is a pair of veterans that help other vets get the medication and care that they need. They help out other veterans that cannot afford a car or are too old or disabled to drive themselves to a medical facility. So far these two veterans have spent more than 15,000 hours driving other vets back and forth.
For the past 16 years, a pair of retired army soldiers volunteered their time to drive disabled veterans up and down Interstate 25 to Albuquerque where there is a medical facility that can provide vets with treatment. These veterans are 85-year old Mel Ortega, and 70-year old Bernardo Jaramillo. Ortega started driving the route in 2002, and Jaramillo joined in a year later after learning of Ortega’s task from one of the vets he helped.
“When I was wounded in Vietnam, my brothers in arms, they never left me or the other guys behind,” Jaramillo said, “The reason I do this is, they never let me down, and I don’t intend to let ’em down. I don’t care from what war, we gotta serve them, because they served us.”
Ortega has driven 200,000 miles across 10,000 hours of work for Disabled American Veterans. The DAV is a nonprofit organization that helps veterans and their families apply for benefits. Ortega and Jaramillo are still looking for a third driver so that they can offer rides four days a week. Currently they are only available during Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings.