FALFURRIAS, Texas — For older veterans, especially those who live in rural areas, getting to and from appointments at VA clinics can be challenging. One man in Brooks County has made it his mission to help those veterans get to their appointments.
From Falfurrias, it’s roughly a two-hour drive in either direction to get to VA clinics in Corpus Christi or the Rio Grande Valley.
James Frazer makes sure that these trips run smoothly for these veterans.
“I like to help people, in this job, I help people,” said Frazer.
For Frazer, helping means lots of hours behind the wheel.
“Anywhere from 30-45 hours I’m driving,” he said.
That’s every week.
Frazer drives the Brooks County Veterans Van, Monday through Friday. He shuttles veterans to and from appointments in McAllen, Harlingen, and Corpus Christi.
“We are our brother’s keeper, so we need to take care of each other, and our fellow veterans, especially the older ones who can’t get out of town,” Frazer said.
Veterans like his good friend Ray Perez, who was told about the program by Frazer.
“I have a truck that gets 12 miles a gallon, it’s not worth it for me to go,” Perez said. “I get tired driving long distances.”
Perez often must travel to the Valley for appointments.
“Usually three times a week; Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays,” he said.
Some days the van is full, but on this particular day, it was just Frazer and Perez. Their destination, the VA clinic in Harlingen.
“It makes it very easy because you get picked up and you get dropped off,” said Perez.
When we asked why he drives the van, even in his retirement, Frazer borrows from the mission statement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“They have a saying ‘Veterans Helping Veterans’, I don’t mind helping my fellow veterans because a lot of them need an awful lot of help,” Frazer said.
Frazer drives the van, but he, and the veterans who ride with him, know the driving force is Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez, who started the program four years ago.
“I appreciate what the sheriff is doing for us as veterans,” Perez said. “He provides the van, the driver, and the gasoline to get out there.”
Perez estimates he’s saving close to $200 every week in gas using the van. Frazer says he is happy to help, because as he says, that’s who he is.
“Whether I’m in the veteran van or anywhere else, I try to help other people, that’s just the way it should be,” Frazer said.
The rides aren’t just for veterans in Brooks County. Frazer also drives veterans from Premont and other parts of Jim Wells County.
If you live in that area and need a ride to a VA clinic, contact Frazer at (361) 660-0279. He drives to the Rio Grande Valley Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and to Corpus Christi on Thursday and Friday.
More Veterans In Focus stories are available here, along with resources for local veterans.