Lenny Richards’ RV looks like a rock star ride with its cockpit-like driver’s station, custom-painted exterior and satellite dish on the roof. But rather than parties, this motorhome is made for deeper stuff. The interior walls close. Chairs swivel to face each other.
Here, veterans can have an impromptu talk with a Department of Veterans Affairs’ counselor. Or they might pick up information, the Lewiston, Maine, Sun Journal reported.
“Wherever the vets are at or wherever the vets might be, that’s where we are,” Richards, who works for the Veterans Administration, said. “We are all about outreach and education.”
His hope is to reach somebody who might be enduring the invisible wounds of war: depression or anxiety, addiction or abuse.
He parks, sets up a table and hopes a veteran reads the giant Vet Center letters across the vehicle and wants to know more.
“The most popular question I get is, ‘What does it get for mileage?’” Richards said. He has operated the 38-foot converted Winnebago for two years. “I still don’t know its mileage.”
But the question might lead to more questions. And questions can lead to help.
Across the country, vet centers operate as part of the mental health arm of the VA. The hospitals and clinics deal with veterans’ medical problems. The centers and the RVs, 50 nationwide, specialize in readjustment issues. The vehicles act as a kind of sample for the aid that can be given at the centers.
Through the vehicle, someone might learn the address of one of the vet centers to pass on to a friend. Others might receive immediate help. Richards typically travels with a counselor.
“They can talk to someone right away,” he said.
In 2010, Richards spent virtually all summer on the road. From May until September, he managed to spend a total of three weeks at home with his wife and children.
In the winter, the schedule slows. When it’s not in use, it is housed behind the Maine National Guard Armory on the Alfred Plourde Parkway.
But there continues to be events to attend, such as an upcoming snowmobile gathering where he’ll pull up the coach and turn up the heat.