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November/December 2023 -   -  

A Dynamic Group

New Mexico Chapter 1062: A Small Chapter Making a Big Difference for Veterans

Chapter 1062, based in the village of Ruidoso in Southern New Mexico, is a small yet dynamic group. Despite Ruidoso's population of fewer than 8,000, some 2,100 veterans live there and in surrounding Lincoln County, many of whom have benefited from Chapter 1062.

“We’re very rural,” Doug Sabo, the chapter’s Service Officer from its inception, said. “It’s 190 miles one way to our VA medical facility in Albuquerque, and the chapter has provided transportation for a lot of older veterans who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get there.”

Jerry Ligon founded Chapter 1062 in 2012. It started with 26 members, roughly the same as today. Sabo — whom the members call “First Sergeant” — is the only original member still actively participating.

“We also have a lot of associate members, probably 15-20,” Sabo said. “We kind of bring everybody in and help everybody. In the Army, the first sergeant takes care of all the troops and their needs. Even though I’ve been retired for 29 years, I’m still fulfilling that duty.”

At the time of Chapter 1062’s formation, there were two other veterans organizations in Ruidoso but, according to Sabo, “neither one of them was actually helping veterans.” Both have since disbanded.

Chapter 1062 observing an Eagle Scout Project. The chapter has made significant contributions to the Boy Scouts of America.

“My idea was, why don’t we actually help veterans? And Jerry [Ligon] said that’s what we need to do,” Sabo said. “That’s been our mantra since day one. We’re helping veterans and their families. We support the community quite a bit, but our first priority is veterans.”

Aside from providing veterans transportation to medical appointments, chapter members also deliver food to isolated and economically disadvantaged veterans and their surviving spouses; organize holiday dinners for veterans and their families; and offer prompt medical, emotional, and mental health support for veterans in need. Sabo takes special pride in the chapter’s recent donation of more than $12,000 to local veterans hit hard by two severe wildfires.

Chapter 1062 also hosts potlucks for veterans, has an active Honor Guard, and performs burial honors. The chapter has made significant contributions to the Boy Scouts of America, a local women’s shelter, and a food bank, and has donated backpacks and food to a local elementary school.

To fund these initiatives, the chapter's main fundraiser, Tom McNeil, arranges regular raffles at gun shows, generating thousands of dollars annually. The non-emergency medical transportation company Shuttle Ruidoso has granted funds to Chapter 1062 twice.

Sabo's Success Rate
Chapter 1062 members at their raffle table at a local gun show.

One thing that sets Chapter 1062 apart is Sabo’s tireless and fruitful Service Officer efforts helping veterans with their VA claims. Sabo, himself 100 percent disabled, has a 96 percent success rate with VA disability claims. It’s no coincidence that every one of Chapter 1062’s current members receives VA disability.

“It took me 39 months to get my disability, so when we started the chapter, I volunteered to be the Service Officer,” Sabo said. “It just worked out that I’m very good at it, so I got nationally certified to do that.”

Sabo estimates that he receives around ten calls a month from veterans in need of such assistance. He typically meets with four or five a month to discuss disability or medical help.

“I came up with a two-page document that asks all the pertinent questions, and I make it very graphic and articulate,” Sabo said. “I provide the evidence: Here’s where I was hurt; here’s where I went to the doctor; here’s where I was in the hospital; here’s how it’s affecting me now.”

Thanks to Sabo’s success rate, the former head of the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, Sonya Smith, got involved with Chapter 1062. After attending a chapter meeting last year, she implemented a state funding policy for transportation of rural veterans to the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Centre in Albuquerque. Smith also made sure the New Mexico State Service Officers had copies of Sabo’s claims document.

Chapter 1062 is no one-man show. Other members are involved with activities, including providing on-scene support for first responders, working with Wreaths Across America, and taking care of community flags.

The youngest member of Chapter 1062 at 67, Sabo helps surviving family members with VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation applications. He has intervened in many suicide situations and once helped a Vietnam War veteran receive a Purple Heart.

Sabo’s Service Officer work pays another dividend. “Every time I get a Vietnam veteran disability, they join,” he said. “Things like that motivate people and make them feel welcome.”





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