David Cooksey, a student veteran at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, faced a challenge when his van broke down, depriving him of transportation to commute to school when he starts classes this spring.


Thanks to the Veterans Villages of America, Cooksey’s transportation problem has been solved.


Cooksey won a 1999 Honda Civic from the organization during a giveaway held on Veteran’s Day. Cooksey received the car during a presentation held Nov. 29.


Cooksey entered the Army after attending Van Buren High School and served in the armed forces for more than five years. His time as an active duty member saw him complete a yearlong tour in Iraq.


After returning from overseas, he enrolled at UAFS on the recommendation of his wife, who also attends the university. He also had heard of the university’s numerous resources for veterans, including the Student Veterans Organization and the Veterans Resource Center on campus.


After his van broke down, Cooksey learned of the giveaway from Dawn Webster, veteran’s coordinator with the Financial Aid Office, and entered.


When he found out he won, he cried.


“My wife was trying to figure out why I was freaking out,” he joked. “We had just bought a van and it broke down, and someone calls you and tells you you won a car. It’s one of those things you hear about and think, ‘It will never happen to me.’ But it did.”


This is the second year the VVA has held a car giveaway, which they started after veterans began donating cars to the organization.


Ret. Col. Mike Ross, chairman of the board of the VVA, spoke during the car presentation, where he stressed the importance of the organization in helping veterans.


“I served in Iraq and lost 36 soldiers. I had over 350 return back home, and five committed suicide within six months,” he said. “I’ve seen divorces, unemployment and homelessness, and I said, ‘We’ve got to do something. We have to invest back in these veterans.’”


Ross added that people have also donated houses to the organization, which they are repurposing into studio apartments for veterans.


The Veterans Villages of America is a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the economic well-being and quality of life of veterans.


For more information about services UAFS provides for veterans, visit http://admissions.uafs.edu/veterans/veteran-services or contact Webster at 479-788-7092 or dawn.webster@uafs.edu.


For more information on the Veterans Villages of America, contact Ross at Mike.Ross06@att.net or visit www.veteransvillagesofamerica.org.