Stars and Stripes mark permanent DAV occupancy
Stars and Stripes mark permanent DAV occupancy

It’s been more than a year since DAV Chapter 86 began to move to its new home. On Monday, the move was officially complete.

The flag is flying over Flagler Disabled American Veterans Chapter 86 once again.

On Monday, after more than a year, the Jim Booe Chapter formally completed its move from Flagler Beach to 27 Florida Park Drive, Palm Coast, with a flag-raising ceremony.

“It’s nice to sit down and relax,” said Lawrence E. Rekart, the chapter’s treasurer. “Tomorrow will be the first day I don’t have anything to do in two years.”

Members of the Flagler County Commission and Palm Coast City Council joined DAV officers and members for Monday’s ceremony. The American and POW-MIA flags were raised on the very pole used at the chapter’s previous home on South 6th Street in Flagler Beach. The pole had to be altered for the new location.

Rekart said the flag-raising brings a sense of permanence to the chapter.

“Finally, it’s up,” he said. “I think that’s the last major project. We’re here now, we’re in place, we’re fully functional.”

Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, who hails from a military family, was pleased with the DAV’s putting down roots in Palm Coast.

“We could not be happier,” she said. “They provide such a necessary service to so many of our disabled veterans right here in our community. I don’t know how many residents are aware, but we have over 13,000 veterans just here in Flagler County alone.”

Ninety-five percent of them live within the city limits, according to Rekart.

“Because of the kind of facility that we have and the locale of the facility, we’re able to more easily reach the veterans in Flagler County,” he said.

Chapter 86 has added a couple of extras to its regular services.

“We’ve added seated tai chi classes on Tuesdays for people who have a disability,” said Rekart.

The chapter is also entering into the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ VETS Center program. The name is derived from the 1970s precursor to the program – Vietnam Era Transition Study – though it now reaches out to veterans of any era.

The program provides counseling, outreach and referral services to combat veterans and their families. Chapter 86’s new facility gives the program a place to operate in Flagler County.

According to Rekart, representatives from the VA like the chapter’s new facility because its small offices allow for confidentiality. The offices have large glass walls facing the interior and windows facing the outside.

This marks a major change from the windowless cubicles of the chapter’s former facility.

“Now we have natural light, great surroundings and a pleasant location,” Rekart said.

Core chapter services continue to be offered by service officers and transportation volunteers.

Service officers are trained to help veterans work through the complex forms and processes necessary to file disability claims.

Transportation to VA appointments in Gainesville, Daytona Beach or St. Augustine is provided by volunteers driving SUVs made available through a special agreement with the Ford Motor Company. The drivers take veterans to the appointments, wait for them and then bring them back. This is a critical service as there is no VA facility in Flagler County.

Chapter 86 has also worked with the Salvation Army to help the homeless veteran population.

Holland said she found Monday’s brief ceremony moving.

“The raising of a flag evokes those memories and that sense of pride and that feeling of freedom that goes along with every single thing that is sacrificed by so many,” she said.