Although there are almost 8,000 veterans in the Bradley County area, Gray operates on an annual budget of $4,000 to $5,000.
The money is used for everything from constructing wheelchair ramps at the homes of veterans to helping out with groceries.
According to Gray, the mission of the organization is “never leave a veteran behind.”
He said being left behind is a predicament a majority of the Vietnam veterans found themselves in years after the war ended.
As Gray is a Vietnam veteran himself, he makes it his mission to reach out to American veterans of every branch and skirmish. He said it helps him to handle the horrors of war.
“We will serve them all that need help. All that we can,” Gray said. “We don’t have a lot of money, but there is no limit to the amount of people we can talk to and help them get their benefits.”
The service most often given by the DAV to veterans is an explanation of the benefits available.
Gray was out of the Marine Corps for 35 years before he discovered he had medical insurance.
Gray, alongside other DAV members, attempt to get the information out via word of mouth.
Another issue seen in a lot of veterans, young and old, is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Gray explained a job of the DAV is to confront the problem and explain the avenues of aid available to the veteran.
“It is one veteran helping another,” Gray said. “That is all it is.”
However, outside help through donations are needed to offer the veteran to veteran support.
Head Baseball Coach Mark Brew at Lee University reached out to Gray after he learned of the chapter.
He asked Gray if the DAV was interested in being the beneficiary of the second annual Military Appreciation Day scheduled for Saturday, April 26.
Gray accepted on behalf of the more than 600 members in the local chapter.
The goal is to raise $15,000 for the DAV.
Gray said the organization could do an “awful lot” with the money.
“People will never understand how much [$15,000] can help,” Gray said. “They will never understand that that small amount of money can lead to a lot of good that can be done through the local chapter to help local veterans. They have no idea how far we can spread that money out.”
He said people don’t know the needs of the local veterans. One reason is because it is difficult for a person who has never been a veteran to understand the needs of a veteran.
Another reason is pride. Gray said veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are some of the proudest people around.
“They don’t want to admit they need help,” Gray said. “They don’t want a handout. They would much rather have you offer them a job than to offer them a few bucks.”
However, Gray explained veterans are much more likely to speak with fellow veterans. He said it is the job of the local DAV to find veterans in need and offer support.
While Gray is appreciative of the money Lee’s baseball team hopes to generates, he is reminded of those he was unable to help in the past.
“... People we couldn’t help because we just didn’t have it in our bank account,” he said. “We will have that money. We will be able to help them.”
The event will take place on April 26 at Lee University’s Olympic Field from 1 to 5 p.m. Those interested in more information, whether to be a sponsor or attend, can contact Brew at 614-8638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.