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U.S. Marine Veteran shares healthcare experience

VALLEY — Our Valley Times-News Veteran of the Week, Frank Hartley, served as a U.S. Marine for four years in the 1960s and more recently provided a much-needed service to his fellow veterans by driving a van to the VA Hospital in Tuskegee for 11 years.

“At one time I was driving three days a week,” he told The Times-News.

Hartley drove as many as eight local veterans at a time for their healthcare appointments. Most of the time, if he couldn’t drive for one reason or another, local veterans didn’t get to the doctor.

He was driving one day a week when he retired within the last year. James Locke is now driving the van on Fridays. Hartley said he’s doing a good job but needs help.

“We need more than one driver,” he said. “A qualified person could do it one day a week. One day a month would help.”

In 11 years of driving to Tuskegee, Hartley made 750 trips.

That’s 109,000 hours and 140,000 miles helping his fellow veterans.

Talk to any veteran and they will tell you that a change to the better in the way of treatment is slow in coming, but there may be such a change in what’s called a choice plan.

Hartley explains that veterans can get medical appointments with local doctors and have it covered by the VA, provided they live more than 40 miles away from a VA hospital or will wait 30 days for an appointment.

“I think it’s a better system,” Hartley said. “But it’s not good the doctors have to wait six months to get paid.”

Hartley said he enjoyed helping his fellow veterans get to the VA Hospital.

Hartley was in the Marines from 1963-67. After basic training at Paris Island, S.C. he was stationed at a Marine air base at Cherry Point, N.C. and then spent some time at a supply base in Albany, Georgia before spending two years on Okinawa as a member of the 3rd Marine Division.

He and his wife Jackie are very active today with American Legion Post 67. Frank is a Legion member and Jackie is with the Auxiliary.

Both were at the recent Day for the Veteran program at Valley Community Center.

“We enjoy doing what we can to help the local Legion Post and its activities,” he said.