Disabled veteran crosses country, spreads awareness

thanlon@adn.comOctober 18, 2013 

Lisa Groves has seven teddy bears piled on the passenger seat of her Jeep Compass with West Virginia license plates.

There's a worn Bible laying on the dashboard, an American flag adhered with gold duct tape to the antenna and a blue-and-white handicapped parking tag hanging from the rear-view mirror.

The 50-year-old in the driver's seat is a disabled U.S. Army veteran. She made it to Alaska last week after departing her home state June 2. Her road trip comes with a mission: Help fellow veterans in need. Her shirt reads: "As God my guide and by my side I'm driving to 49 U.S. states (Alaska)-Canada-Mexico for a No Veteran Left Behind Veterans Awareness Drive."

Groves stops to listen to veterans in the hospital, at homeless shelters or on the side of the road. Her white vehicle is cluttered with scribbled well wishes and grieving thoughts put down in permanent marker from the veterans and family of veterans that she's met along her ride.

She hands the teddy bears to those crying as they recount their experiences with war. She gives out clothing, shampoo and diapers to those in need, storing them in her trunk.

Groves operates on her own spare change and donations. She frequently spends nights in her vehicle.

"I'd rather put gas in my car and feed a veteran than go to a hotel room," she said .

Groves served in the Army from 1984 to 1992. She said she was raped during her eight years served but never reported it. She has four children and four grandchildren. She's struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.

Now Groves drives across the country with two copiers and a scanner to help veterans sign up for benefits. She bought honey because she found people like to put it in their tea. She said she won't stop until the need for better veteran services is noticed.

"It takes a veteran to know what another veteran needs," Groves said.

On Sunday, she plans to be off to Fairbanks to continue lending an ear and giving out supplies.

Reach Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@adn.com or 257-4589.

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