Sal Uccello joined the Disabled American Veterans in 1955 and became a lifetime member in 1961. As a DAV member he volunteered in Connecticut for many years prior to retiring in 1987. Upon his retirement he started volunteering full time for the DAV – many times spending his days off, weekends and money. His wife and two sons now speak fondly about the many times they waited for their father to finish helping a veteran.
In 1987, he was appointed Hospital Service Coordinator/DAV Service Officer at the VAMC Newington Connecticut facility. Word quickly got out in the veterans community about the new DAV service officer. They knew he would never take a break, have lunch or leave at the end of the day if a veteran was waiting. If a veteran had a problem, he would not hesitate to make every effort to correct it or contact the Medical Center Staff.
During the winter of 1987 he started the first “ Disabled Veterans Skiing Program” in Connecticut. For the first time 19 disabled veterans from Connecticut went skiing in Vermont. This was not easy. He had to convince VA Medical staff to support the program and he had to raise funds from the community. For the next seven years, under his supervision the veterans skiing program in Connecticut grew. Many of the veterans now state how this program changed their lives for the better.
During the time he served the DAV at the VA Newington he received many awards, honors and recognition. The Medical Center Director gave him a plaque in 1998 for his dedication to the veteran patients. At the 1989 fall meeting of the Department of Connecticut, DAV he was recognized as DAV Member of the year. Again in 1989, the VAMC Newington presented him with an honor of outstanding volunteer.
His biggest honor came after he resigned and moved to West Palm Beach. The Governor of Connecticut invited him back to the state to go skiing with him. And the Governor presented him with a proclamation for his service to the veterans with special recognition for the “Connecticut Handicapped Ski Program” that he started and had chaired for seven years.
In 1994 he was appointed the first DAV Hospital Service Coordinator to the new VAMC West Palm Beach, Florida. Over the next months he set the standard for new VAVS representatives by attending DAV Chapter meetings in the seven counties serviced by the soon-to-be opened Medical Center. Before he arrived in 1994, the veterans’ transportation for the VA Rivera Outpatient Clinic consisted of one 15-year-old station wagon and a few veterans driving their own cars carrying veterans. By attending chapter meetings and speaking with veterans he found out transportation was a big problem. With only 10 months before the opening of the Medical Center, he started the DAV Transportation Program.
In just a few months working with DAV Chapters, Veterans Organizations, volunteers, VA staff and officials in the seven counties, he had several DAV vans donated. He recruited, signed up and trained volunteer drivers, established routes, pick up times and set up safe places in each county to park the vans. When the Medical Center opened some veterans without transportation took Tri-Rail. The train station is several miles away from the facility and many veterans could not afford the cost of a taxi. From early morning, to the last train leaving, every week day, each train that arrives or leaves the station has a DAV van waiting with a DAV driver on the platform. His goal was “ No veteran or patient will be without transportation.”