Two veterans spend 15,000 hours helping disabled veterans

The secretary and chief salute Air Force veterans. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/CC)

By Valeria Martinez @valeriathx

In small towns of Northern New Mexico, USA, there are veterans who are disabled, too old or too poor to drive to Albuquerque for their medical treatment.

For the last 16 years, two retired US Army soldiers have volunteered their time and effort to drive the elderly and disabled veterans to their medical appointments.

Mel Ortega, 85, has been driving the veterans since 2002. Bernardo Jaramillo, 70, joined him a year later, after learning about Ortega’s good deed from one of the passengers.

“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 321,868 kilometres on the route, approximately 10,000 hours of work for the veteran. Ortega works for Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit that helps veterans and their families apply for benefits. Jaramillo has worked 5,000 hours and driven 160,934 kilometres for the disabled veterans.

Ortega and Jaramillo are trying to find a third driver to provide transport four days a week.

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