Van brings veterans services

mgaytan@losbanos enterprise.comApril 18, 2014 

Rodney Twitchell is among veterans on the West Side of Merced County with little access to veterans services.

That changed this week when the Modesto Vet Center brought its oversized RV to Veteran’s Memorial Hall in Los Banos. The van will be available on the first and third Tuesday of each month.

American Legion member Alan Cotta, organizer, helped the more than a dozen veterans get signed in and situated once the van arrived.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” he said “I think it’s a success so far.”

Twitchell, who travels to Merced to meet with a support group, is pleased to have services closer to home.

“There’s a lot of veterans here who need a lot of help,” said Twitchell, who served in the Vietnam War. “The more that gets here, the better off it is.”

Los Banos was home to 1,303 veterans between 2008-12, according to the Census Bureau.

Although the Veterans Administration offers a shuttle bus to veterans services in larger cities, Cotta said providing services in the area has been long overdue.

“The West Side doesn’t get this kind of coverage, so this is a good thing,” Cotta said.

As far as event organizer and veteran Rick Bosch can remember, it’s been about two years since similar services have been offered in Los Banos.

Levi Starman, office manager for the Modest Vet Center, said he is glad to help veterans who are underserved and expects the group to grow.

The Modesto Vet Center serves those dealing with post-traumatic stress, psychological issues or who just need to talk to someone.

While the center provides a number of services, it has three major specialties: readjustment counseling; military sexual trauma and bereavement counseling.

The Modesto Vet Center treats combat veterans and active duty military personnel.

The van is large enough to hold two offices, along with state-of-the art equipment with access to the VA system and Modesto’s own system.

Cotta said the ongoing effort is appreciated by war veterans and hopes that more people will utilize the van so it continue to come to Los Banos.

“As a vets organization, we want to do everything we can to help vets out there,” Cotta said, “whether they just need someone to tell them what direction to go, or whether they need to sit down and do counseling.”

Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6562 or

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