Community Council Tours Mobile Unit for Veterans
December 18, 2015
By Mikhail Sundust
An independent non-profit organization is offering an innovative solution to helping veterans in Pinal County obtain and receive the benefits they are entitled to and the Community is using its shared gaming revenue program to support its efforts.
“All of the veterans’ services are around Pinal County, and we don’t have very many services available in our communities,” said Kim Rodriguez. “So our thought was to have something that would take the services to the veterans.”
Rodriguez is the Chairperson of Honoring/Hiring/Helping Our Heroes of Pinal County (HOHP). The group set a goal last year to raise money for a mobile unit that could drive around Pinal County and offer services to veterans in their neighborhoods.
HOHP’s prayers were answered in a fortuitous encounter with the director of the Pinal County Health Department, Tom Schryer. “Our five-year goal was to have a mobile unit, and we had it in two months,” Rodriguez said.
Pinal County purchased a mobile medical unit several years ago, but utilized it less and less as new clinics opened in the region. The mobile unit was sitting, waiting to serve a new purpose when Rodriguez mentioned her mission to Schryer.
Pinal County sold the mobile medical unit to HOHP for $1, and HOHP renamed the vehicle Eagle One.
HOHP’s dream had come true much more rapidly than it had expected and the group had to move quickly to get Eagle One on the road. For that, HOHP requested support from the Gila River Indian Community, who happily obliged.
At the Dec. 2 Council meeting, Rodriguez thanked the Community for its support of HOHP and invited Council members to tour the new vehicle.
“I just wanted to say thank you so very much for approving that grant,” she said. “It was approved for three years to pay for fuel, tires, insurance, roadside service, Wi-Fi, and the maintenance repairs so that we can get it on the road and make sure that veterans across Pinal County are taken care of the way they deserve to be taken care of.”
As chance would have it, GRIC also funded the original purchase of the vehicle for Pinal County. In both cases the outside organizations benefited from the tribe’s shared gaming revenue program.
Eagle One is a modified RV that features an exam room in the rear, space for medical equipment, a private area for counseling sessions, and a three-station laptop workplace, where professionals can access resources or veterans can register for benefits or access their records.
The unit will serve all of Pinal County, which includes most of the Gila River reservation, and HOHP plans on delivering services to GRIC vets at events like the Iwo Jima Flag-Raising Parade in February.
District 1 Council Representative Joey Whitman said, “This is going to really help the efforts in our Community to get the older veterans benefits...those older ones are the ones that need to get their benefits – not only for them, but for their families – because they earned it and deserve it.”
Council Representative Albert Pablo (District 6) was grateful that HOHP acknowledged the need to bring services to veterans. “This is something that is really needed. … There are quite a few veterans in Pinal County alone so this is a worthy venture, and I’m glad that the Community is a part of this.”