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Vietnam veteran pays it forward

“If it wasn’t for DAV…” Vietnam veteran pays it forward, helping other veterans get benefits they earned

The year was 1966, and 19-year-old Jim Daugharty had a good job with a local drapery company making, as he said, “pretty good dollars,” when he received his draft notice.

“I got my notice in the mail, and there we go,” says Daugharty. “You were just going with the flow, Uncle Sam called, and there we were.” 

After training at Fort Polk in Louisiana, Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Fort Irwin in California, Daugharty was off to Vietnam where he would spend 11 months. 

“During monsoon season, everything turns to mud. We were doing fire missions and the Howitzer would pull itself into the ground and we’d try to pull it back. I snapped my back. Over the years, I’ve had three back surgeries,” says Daugharty.

That wouldn’t be his only injury. When a piece of steel soared through the air and struck him in the head, he wound up in the hospital. 

And then there were the invisible wounds. 

By 1968 the TET Offensive began, and with it would be what Daugharty recalls as his “scariest night there.” 

When he came home from the war, the experiences in Vietnam were not left behind. PTSD, he says, caused his divorce. He has since remarried, and, along the way, he forged another important relationship—with DAV.

“If it wasn’t for DAV, I would have never got my benefits,” says Daugharty. “Most of us back then didn’t know how the system worked. All my stuff was treated in the military. I went to the VA in Chicago and the guy said, ‘You’re blowing smoke.’ So, like many other guys, I said okay and walked away.”

Fortunately, fellow veterans pointed him in the right direction. Daugharty belonged to an independent, neighborhood veterans’ group—one that he’d joined 20 years after Vietnam—and at a picnic one of the members asked if he’d ever connected with a service officer. 

“I didn’t know what he was talking about,” says Daugharty. 

That soon changed. 

Daugharty talked to a DAV national service officer out of Chicago and told him he’d never been able to locate his military files. Within two days, the DAV service officer had located the files. 

“He knew where to look,” says Daugharty. 

After that, Daugharty got involved with the local DAV chapter. After chapter meetings, a DAV service officer would meet with veterans and do claims. Today, Daugharty is doing claims for veterans himself. 

“Now, I do claims about six days a week,” says Daugharty, who belongs to two chapters, one in Hammond, Ind., and the other in Lenox, Ill. 

“I enjoy what I do,” says Daugharty. “I get as much satisfaction when a veteran gets his claim as the veteran does. I know how it feels. I’ve belonged to other organizations, but DAV took care of me. If they can do that for me, maybe I can do it for the guy behind me. I’ve been doing it for 14 years.” 

Daugharty and his fellow chapter members recently learned about a young veteran in Georgia who couldn’t find anyone to help him. He and his chapter decided to buy him a bus ticket and got him a place to stay and completed his claim.

“He’s back up and running,” says Daugharty.

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