The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

March 27, 2014

Fixing up: DAV finds home in old Santa Fe Depot

ENID, Okla. — From the outside, it may just look like a roof repair.

When the contractor gets started, though, it’ll be the first step toward helping the Enid chapter of Disabled American Veterans find a more perfect home at the Santa Fe Depot.

The city recently approved nearly $70,000 to fix the roof. Historic tiles will be removed during the work, but replaced once damaged parts of the structure are repaired. The city also is installing a waterproof membrane on the roof to protect from future leaks.

Water damage is visible throughout the building — mostly through stained ceilings and rotting spots in walls. DAV Chapter 66 Senior Vice Commander Don Eck said there’s not too much to worry about, though.

“It’s just a lot of cosmetic, inside. There’s some rain damage and stuff inside. It doesn’t really affect us,” he said.

DAV is fairly new at the depot. A few months ago, members asked to take over the depot’s management and the city agreed. For no cost, DAV maintains the building’s interior and manages space rentals. Often, senior citizens groups will gather in the large front space on the east end of the depot.  

“It’s kind of like a good deal for everybody,” Eck said.

Santa Fe Depot is a lot better than DAV’s previous home — a small brick building on North 26th.

“When we got the opportunity to move over here we jumped on it, because it’s a more centralized area for us,” said Eck, referencing the nearby American Legion and VFW posts. “We’re kind of all together now.”

On one side of the depot is a kitchen and dining area. In the middle is a hallway with offices and on the east side is the gathering space. There could be seniors playing cards or Vietnam veterans meeting. On Wednesday, a pair of Army recruiters sat down with veterans to discuss the best ways to get younger veterans involved.

“I think out of all our members, we have 33 members that are under 50 years old,” Eck said. “And we have 460-some members. You can imagine we’re all kind of hurting. Within the next 15 years, we’re not going to have any members unless we get our act together to get the younger ones.”

Part of that process is to strengthen the DAV brand by just referring to it by its initials. Saying a veteran is disabled, Eck said, conjures an image of someone in a wheelchair.

“We don’t want to be generalized as handicapped that way,” he said. “We know that two out of five veterans returning from Afghanistan have post-traumatic stress — to the point where one out of 10 have committed suicide. That’s an unseen disability we’re having to address.”

It seemed easier for vets of previous wars to organize after returning home, especially for those coming back from Vietnam.

“When those guys came back, it was easier for them to combine because they felt they were so shunned by society. When they got together, it was an automatic bond,” he said.

That bond is one shared through stories and personal experience, emotions and thoughts that transcend a single battle.

“As a combat veteran, I can talk to another veteran — even from the Afghanistan war — and I can relate to what he’s saying. Right now, a lot of the younger ones don’t realize there is hope,” he said.

Along with helping veterans file claims, the DAV in Enid recently acquired a van to shuttle vets to the local VA clinic. Eck praised the Enid community because it only took a few weeks to raise the money.

“When we’re really in need and we go to the public, they really give out,” he said.

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