KOKOMO, Ind. — As commander of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Department of Indiana, Jerry Fivecoate dedicates his time to empowering veterans, ensuring they can access the benefits earned for serving their country.
“My main focus, and the reason I like the DAV, is for the things it stands for,” said Fivecoate, who works for Physical Facilities on the IU Kokomo campus. “Our mission statement is to fulfill the promise made for the men and women who served. Our main goal is direct assistance to these American heroes. Serving as commander is a big honor to me.”
A Kokomo resident, Fivecoate became state commander July 1 and will serve a one-year term. He oversees all state level DAV services, including assisting veterans and their families with obtaining their benefits and services, representing their interests at the local, state, and national government levels, educating the public about the needs of veterans, and providing rides to medical appointments. The department includes 28 active chapters, in six districts.
He manages the state budget and oversees all committees needed to run the organization — all as a volunteer.
“It’s a full-time position, but with no pay involved,” he said. “It is my honor to serve my fellow disabled veterans.”
His goal for the year is to increase the number of volunteers, and to raise money to purchase new vans, which are used to transport veterans to their medical appointments.
Fivecoate, 71, also wants to focus on issues facing women veterans; an area he feels has been overlooked.
“Most of our volunteers are from the Vietnam era, and we need to get younger people involved, to keep this service going for our more recent veterans,” he said. “One of my biggest challenges is getting the department more involved in recognizing our women veterans. They don’t always get the credit they deserve.”
Fivecoate joined the DAV after receiving his disability rating in 2005. He served as commander of the Kokomo chapter, and then was asked to serve at the state level.
He graduated from Kokomo High School, and served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967. Veterans of his era suffered the affects of Agent Orange exposure, with health concerns including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
“A lot of those diseases, all you need to do is prove you had boots on the ground in that country, and it is presumed you were exposed,” he said. “Now we have newer issues among the veterans who came after us, with Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all of the other conflicts.”
He also chairs a legislative committee, which proposes legislation that benefits veterans, and regularly meets with government officials to talk about veteran needs.
As state commander, Fivecoate also accepts donations on behalf of the organization, and represents it at ceremonies honoring veterans.
He appreciates the support of his family as he serves, he said, noting that his wife is past commander of the state DAV Auxiliary, and his daughter has been commander of a local auxiliary chapter. His grandson attends events with him too.
“I’m grateful to them for their support of me in this position, and their support of veterans and their needs,” he said.
The DAV is open to any man or woman who was wounded, gassed, injured, or disabled in the line of duty during time of war, while serving in U.S. military or naval forces, and who has not been dishonorably discharged, or may be in active service.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.