NP’s Napolitano, new DAV commander, says help is available

NP’s Napolitano, new DAV commander, says help is available

Edward Napolitano, of North Providence, was instated as the Rhode Island state commander of the Disabled American Veterans last month.

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Edward Napolitano wants veterans to know that someone is out there to help them, no matter their age or branch of service.

Napolitano, a U.S.. Air Force veteran who lives in North Providence, was installed as the Rhode Island state commander of the Disabled American Veterans at a small ceremony at the Kelley Gazzerro VFW Post in Cranston on June 27.

As state commander, Napolitano will oversee the organization’s nine state chapters, which range from 150 to 800 members each, he said, and he’ll be responsible for hosting meetings every month with the different chapters. They’ll work to help veterans in the state, from those struggling with homelessness or needing help paying their bills to those who need help filling out paperwork to receive disability benefits.

“I was honored,” he said of the promotion. “I’m proud to represent the state as a commander. It felt pretty good to work your way up … it doesn’t happen to all of us.”

His wife, Maureen, told The Breeze that she’s very proud of her husband, noting that veterans are getting help and benefits because of him.

“He’s worked very, very hard. I’ve seen him put in a lot of hours … he’s a good person for the job,” she said. “He’s very passionate about it.”

After his neighbor, who was the commander of Chapter 21 in North Providence, tipped him off to the DAV, he joined the organization in 2005, he said. After serving on the state board for six to seven years, working his way up from second junior vice commander, Napolitano said he ran unopposed and was unanimously voted to serve as commander this year.

“I never realized that there are so many veterans out there that need help,” he said. “We try to do whatever we can.”

DAV is a nonprofit that helps disabled veterans with different tasks, including filing VA claims for disability compensation, appealing claims decisions and with transportation to VA medical appointments.

Nationally the organization’s nearly 1,300 chapters help more than one million veterans each year, providing more than 600,000 rides to medical appointments and assisting with more than 200,000 benefit claims, according to its website. The group also helps veterans find employment. These services are at no cost to veterans.

“(Helping) is our main job. That’s what we do,” Napolitano said. “I think this is probably the most important thing I’ve done.”

He also volunteers at the VA Medical Center in Providence, assisting veterans with filing for disability claims.

While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prevented him and other members from volunteering there the past several months, Napolitano said they are being allowed to return this week to help out again. While stuck at home, he said he’s been talking to veterans on the phone and filling out paperwork for them.

Napolitano grew up in Johnston, graduated from Mount Pleasant High School, and joined the U.S. Air Force in 1960, serving as an administrative specialist in Korea until 1966. He noted that a lot of the work he did is classified.

“It served me well,” he said of the Air Force. “I enjoyed it. I’m proud of it.”

After his time in the military, Napolitano worked much of his career in the auto industry.

As a veteran, he said he needed help and didn’t realize it, like many other veterans. “You don’t think of what happened in the past until you meet up with someone who had the same problems and … find out you had disabilities you didn’t know you had,” he said.

Veterans of any age are welcome to join DAV. He said they’re especially trying to reach out to younger veterans to help take over.

He said he’s more than happy to hear from veterans across the state. They can email him at edandmaureen@hotmail.com . For more about the Disabled American Veterans organization, visit www.dav.org.