Watching volunteers come to his house and build a sturdy wheelchair ramp reminded Clifton Palmateer Jr. of his days with the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.
“I was a Green Beret, and I know about teamwork and camaraderie and everything,” he said.
Then, he thought about volunteers with SAWs Virginia, its theme of “Building Freedom, one ramp at a time,” and the change the ramp has brought to his life.
“It’s made a helluva difference,” said Palmateer, a 72-year-old who lives in Stafford County and has diabetes and kidney failure. “I’ve never had anybody do anything like that for me. They did a beautiful job.”
On Veterans Day weekend, The Free Lance–Star is continuing its tradition of publishing a special section featuring photos and information about area residents who served. The 32-page section, “Salute to Veterans,” is included in today’s newspaper. There’s also an online slide show at fredericksburg.com.
Virginia is home to 750,000 veterans and 27 military bases representing every branch of the armed forces. Given the numbers, it’s no wonder the Fredericksburg region has so many volunteer groups, such as SAWs, that provide assistance to veterans.
Some offer therapeutic opportunities to help service members cope with mental or physical injuries from deployment. Others help them find homes and jobs.
SAWs focuses on wheelchair ramps because contractors can’t always get to such small jobs, said Charlie Russell, executive director of SAWs Virginia. The ramps average between $1,000 and $1,500, said Russell, who lives in Spotsylvania County and started the group this spring.
SAWs doesn’t limit its help to veterans; it is working through the region to help those “trapped in their homes for lack of a wheelchair ramp or the resources to acquire one,” according to the group’s brochure. More information is available on Facebook, at SAWsRamps.org or 540/646-0896.
As for Palmateer, he said the ramp allows him to sit outside in the sun on warm, fall days. He thinks about his service during the Vietnam War, when he jumped out of airplanes, 18,000 feet over Cambodia, then drifted into Laos to gather intelligence about the North Vietnamese army.
“I saw quite a few things, a lot of wasted lives, a lot of what men can do to each other,” Palmateer said.
While the ramp has helped him become more mobile, he still has trouble getting to dialysis three times a week. His wife, Brenda, also has mobility problems and can’t drive, so he has to take a cab, which costs $20 per trip. Sometimes, he misses treatment because he says he can’t afford the fare.
Here’s a look at other organizations in the Fredericksburg region and the help they provide veterans. The Free Lance–Star posted notices in print and online, asking groups to submit their information for the listing.
The American Legion is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization. Posts in communities across the nation sponsor youth programs such as Boys State and Girls State, advocate patriotism and honor and promote strong national security and continued devotion to fellow service members and veterans.
Posts also are active in the community, providing scholarships, holiday gifts and baskets for the needy. Others, such as Post 55 Fredericksburg at 461 Woodford St., are used by local support groups.
Stafford Post 290 operates a bingo and sports complex at its facility at 1151 Mountain View Rd., while Spotsylvania Post 320, 8456 Brock Road, offers firearms and shooting classes among its many programs.
American Legion Riders Post 89, King George, has members who also enjoy motorcycle rides. Members of Post 221 in Caroline County support local community events.
For more information: Facebook.
AMVETS OF FREDERICKSBURG
AMVETS, or American Veterans, was founded by World World II veterans 75 years ago but has grown to include all honorably discharged service members. AMVETS has a Fredericksburg post and service officers throughout Virginia who help veterans file benefit claims. The group also supports ROTC and JROTC programs.
More info: Email AFVET1010@gmail.com.
The national group maintains a “heal helpline” for all service members, veterans and their families. Advocates can address complex medical and mental health needs, connect callers to support, resources and peer mentors and answer questions on VA benefits and health care.
More information: Call 833/838-4325 weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or email VetHeal@AMVETS.org.
BLACK DOG HUNTING
Black Dog Hunting connects and heals veterans through experiences in the outdoors while offering peer-based mentoring and counseling.
Founded by a local Marine from Fredericksburg, the organization puts together events all across the country for veterans from all eras and branches. It focuses on three programs: waterfowl hunting, fishing and a social program in which veterans can connect in a group setting.
Sir Winston Churchill used the "black dog" reference in describing his struggles with ill mood and depression.
BLACK HORSE FORGE
Black Horse Forge in Stafford County teaches veterans and first responders the art and craft of blacksmithing. The goal is to provide a sense of accomplishment, mental and physical well-being and the knowledge and experience to continue the craft in their own communities. All training is free.
BLUE STAR MOTHERS
The main focus of Blue Star Mothers of Fredericksburg is to support active-duty service members and veterans. Twice a year, it sends care packages of snacks, treats and hygiene products overseas to service members. Hundreds of individuals are involved in packaging the items.
CELEBRATE VETERANS GROUP
The Celebrate Veterans Group is open to residents of the Del Webb Celebrate Community off U.S. 17 in Stafford. It provides numerous volunteer opportunities for residents to promote and support activities ranging from Toys for Tots to Christmas cards for wounded soldiers. This year, the group has given $17,250 to the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond.
More informaton: Call 540/479-1497.
DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS
The Disabled American Veterans has a Fredericksburg post, the Gen. Washington Chapter 7, which mirrors the national mission of building better lives for disabled veterans and their families. The post meets at the VFW Building at 2701 Princess Anne St., Fredericksburg.
More information: Facebook or 540/891-8396.
EMMANUEL AME CHURCH
The Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church sponsors events for veterans on Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day weekends. Members also assist with filing VA claims, support local posts and events and host workshops for veterans.
More information: Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
FREDERICKSBURG FALLEN HEROES
The Fredericksburg Fallen Heroes is a nonprofit that honors and supports veterans in Fredericksburg and surrounding areas. The group holds monthly meetings and sponsors various projects, such as Wreaths Across America.
More info: Facebook.
MANARC RESALE STORE
MANARC, which stands for Marine, Army, Navy, Air Force, Reserve and Coast Guard, supports veterans through its resale store at 1008 Sophia St., Fredericksburg.
Members of the community are asked to donate unwanted items—everything but children’s clothing—to be sold at the store. Money raised goes toward groups that help veterans with financial assistance, service animals and specially adapted homes.
More information: Online at manarcgives.org or call 540/207-4648.
PROJECT HEALING WATERS
Project Healing Waters is a VA-approved, therapeutic fly fishing program that helps in the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active-duty military service members and veterans.
The Fredericksburg chapter meets monthly at VFW Post 3103 at 2701 Princess Anne St. as well as at the Fredericksburg–Rappahannock Izaak Walton League site off Herndon Road in Spotsylvania County, where there’s a fully stocked pond.
More information: Facebook.
SOME GAVE ALL FOUNDATION
Formed to honor two local service members killed in Iraq, the Some Gave All Foundation has raised $305,000 since 2007, primarily through an annual motorcycle ride, to help those wounded or disabled in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Money is used to help veterans with physical and mental injuries, educational needs, structures needed to enhance mobility, transitional housing, debts, travel and transportation needs, job preparedness and family needs.
Those in need can apply for a grant online at somegaveallfoundation.org/.
More information: Email email@example.com or call 540/775-9877.
TEAM RED, WHITE & BLUE
Team Red, White & Blue Fredericksburg aims to connect veterans to their community through physical activities, social events and service projects.
More info: Facebook.
TEAM RIVER RUNNER
Team River Runner is a nonprofit designed to help wounded and disabled veterans and their families heal through paddle sports. The Fredericksburg chapter provides equipment and training through the physical and mental activity of kayaking.
The website states that veterans are on the “river to recovery” and encourages veterans and volunteers to check out the free program. The group meets at the Ron Rosner YMCA in Spotsylvania.
THAT OTHERS MAY RISE
That Others May Rise, a Spotsylvania nonprofit group, focuses on helping people in the West African nation of Cabo Verde, but also offers help for veterans.
The group offers information that can be downloaded on how to write cover letters and resumés, 12 steps to starting a business, viewpoints on transitioning from the military and information about post traumatic stress syndrome.
More information: Online at thatothersmayrise.org/veteran-outreach.
VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS
The Veterans of Foreign Wars is a nonprofit veterans service organization comprising eligible veterans and service members from the active, guard and reserve forces. Programs support veterans, service members and their families as well as local communities through programs such as teacher of the year and its annual scholarship program, Voice of Democracy.
Local branches include Post 10295 Bowling Green at 17352 A.P. Hill Road and Post 3103 Fredericksburg at 2701 Princess Anne St.
More info: Facebook.
VETERANS ON BOARD
Veterans on Board is a peer group for veterans, who meet weekly and offer each other help and support. The nonprofit also helps veterans file claims and find housing assistance, and it provides a veteran workforce to perform odd jobs such as moving and lawn care.
The group meets from 9 to 11 a.m. Fridays at the Fredericksburg VFW Building, 2701 Princess Anne St.
More information: Online at veteransonboardforsupport.org or 703/919-4725.
VETS ON TRACK
Based in Stafford County, the Vets on Track Foundation works with organizations that place homeless veterans and first responders into permanent housing. Through its Fresh Start program, the foundation provides the necessary furniture and accessories to make the house a home.
Sometimes, the homes lack the most basic comforts such as beds or sofas, according to VoTF. The group has furnished hundreds of homes in recent years from Maryland to Norfolk. It received the Allen & Allen Hometown Heroes Award for 2019.
WARFIGHTERS REFUGE PROJECT
Warfighters Refuge Project is a Fredericksburg nonprofit that promotes advocacy for homeless veterans.