DAV Offers Much-Needed Resources to Veterans

DAV Offers Much-Needed Resources to Veterans

After spending only a few minutes with Alonzo Albertson it’s easy to understand that he may be retired from the United States Army, but his work giving back to our country is far from over.

A native of Kinston who now resides in Goldsboro, Albertson spent 16 years in the Army in supply and then transferred over to transportation. Albertson’s service included involvement in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, as well as stops in Bosnia, Somalia, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now Albertson spends his days as Commander Service Officer at the Donald H. Kirkman Chapter for Disabled American Veterans on Mulberry Street.

During his time in the Army, Albertson was unaware of the benefits available to veterans through the DAV. As Commander Service Officer, a position he’s held since 2022, Albertson’s aim is to inform veterans of the many resources at their disposal.

According to governor.nc.gov, more than 720,000 veterans reside in North Carolina.

“To be totally honest, I didn’t know about the DAV,” Albertson said. “It took a while when I got out in 2005 until I found out about in 2014, because I didn’t know. We get a lot of people that come in here, and they didn’t know we were here. We really try to get out into the community and let people know we’re here. We try to get out to Lowe’s and Sam’s Club, and to Center Street Jam and the Wayne County Fair.”

Among the many challenges facing veterans, Albertson points to the affects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, unemployment, homelessness and isolation. For many veterans the most difficult step can simply be asking for help.

“A lot of veterans need to come see us instead of going to other places and holding up signs,” said Albertson. “We can help send off for their record of service and go through them with a fine-toothed comb. If you broke a foot or a finger, you may not remember that, but if it’s in your military records, you’re entitled for some pay for that. If you serve 179 days, the military is obligated to some pay for you. We have educational benefits and homeless benefits. If you’re homeless, most of the time we can find you a place to stay in 30 days.”

The DAV recently celebrated its 100th birthday as an organization. The company has broadened its employee base to better serve veterans, and to accelerate the process by which veterans receive benefits.

“Back in the days, the process (to receive benefits) took so long,” Albertson said. “I’ve heard from veterans that the process took six years, or nine or ten years. Now, claims are getting done within a year. I just had a gentleman that his claim got done in two months. The quickest one I’ve ever seen is two weeks. The DAV has hired 20,000 additional people to look at your claims. A lot of veterans got frustrated with the system, but the system has changed a lot.”

Each week Albertson and his fellow DAV volunteers provide veterans with breakfast every Wednesday. Volunteers from the DAV also visit the North Carolina Veterans Home in Kinston monthly to play bingo with the residents.

As part of Albertson’s duties as Commander Service Officer he and other DAV officers maintain a positive working relationship with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Keeping active and retired military personnel associated with Seymour Johnson aware of the many benefits available to veterans is a priority for Albertson.

“We work really close with the base,” Albertson said. “The base has 1,000 to 1,200 transitioning personnel a year. They had a Transitioning Service Officer on base, and they have done away with that position. So, now we are taking on all of their transitioning personnel. It’s really important to have that relationship, and to have people getting out in the community.”

The tireless efforts of Albertson and his staff haven’t gone unrecognized. The Goldsboro DAV chapter was recently named Chapter of the Year in North Carolina, and volunteer Victor Love received the Service Officer of the Year award. Fellow Goldsboro DAV volunteer Raymond Rogers received the Outstanding Disabled American Veteran of the Year.

Anyone interested in volunteering at the DAV can visit their office at 212 E. Mulberry Street. The office is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The DAV can also be reached by phone at (919) 736-3015.

“You don’t have to be a veteran to become a volunteer,” Albertson said. “We have ROTC groups come in. We have people that need volunteer hours. We have a van service that we transport veterans to and from Fayetteville and Durham to appointments. You don’t have to be a veteran to drive the van. You may come in and answer the phones. We’ll find something for you to do.”