EDITOR'S NOTE: Editor’s note: Col. Hoyt Holland, being honored March 13 by the DAR, leads the Veterans Activities Committee, whose primary project is the veterans bus to the VA hospital in Lake City, Fla.
The following is an unpublished story researched for the November 2011 edition of Downhome magazine.
So what happens when you get all the veterans groups in Colquitt County together? Well, they take you for a ride … literally.
Representatives of all of the county’s American Legion posts plus the Veterans of Foreign Wars post work together on the Veterans Activities Committee, whose biggest project is the veterans bus.
The bus started almost a quarter century ago, the brain child of Jerry Poole, according to Hoyt Holland, the current chairman of the committee. Poole wanted to be able to bus veterans from Moultrie and Thomasville to the VA hospital in Lake City, Fla., so they could more easily get to their medical appointments.
As owner of an upholstery shop, Holland was involved with the project from the very beginning, helping renovate an old school bus for the purpose. He said he was glad to help, even though he wasn’t convinced the idea would work.
But it did. The old school bus chugged along from Moultrie to Thomasville to Lake City, carrying veterans to their appointments, for as long as it could hold out.
Finally, after about 15 years, the Veterans Activities Committee had to face facts: They needed a new bus.
“I saw the need,” Holland said. “By then I saw the good it was doing. They were hauling 40 people out of Thomasville.”
Holland had retired by then and had become certified to drive the bus himself. He helped arrange financing to buy a new vehicle, which arrived in May of 2004.
Holland said mechanics from the school system had volunteered to help whenever something went wrong on the old school bus, so when the committee ordered the new bus from Bluebird, they ordered it built on a school bus frame so the same mechanics could continue to help if anything broke.
But on that school bus frame, the committee ordered a little more comfort: the kind of seats found on Greyhound buses, which could be leaned back, and a good air conditioner.
“It’s pretty comfortable,” Holland said. “It ain’t riding in luxury.”
Other drivers have joined the team since then, a total of five.
“We’ve got the most drivers we ever had,” Holland said, “but two of them are working so they can’t always go.”
The bus leaves the Moultrie Wal-Mart parking lot at 7 a.m. and makes pick-ups in Coolidge, Thomasville, Boston, Quitman, Valdosta and sometimes Jennings, Fla., before ending up at the VA hospital in Lake City.
“In Coolidge, you may have two or three [people to pick up], you may have none,” Holland said. “You get to Thomasville, you’re going to have somebody. You just never know.”
The committee treats the veterans to sausage biscuits going down and soda and cookies on the way back, he said.
In addition to the veterans bus, the Veterans Activities Committee sponsors events in connection with Memorial Day and Veterans Day:
• Placing flags on veterans’ graves at local cemeteries.
• A Memorial Day service sponsored by Cobb Funeral Chapel.
• Busing veterans to an annual memorial service at Andersonville National Historic Site.
• A Veterans Day program on the square.
• A veterans breakfast on the Saturday closest to Veterans Day.
• Driving the bus in the Doerun May Day and Moultrie Christmas parades.