Fighting isn’t as easy as it used to be for David Honeycutt.

After injuries received while serving in the U.S. Army more than 20 years ago, the 49-year-old Chelsea man’s gait is slow, rarely steady, and possible only with the constant use of a cane.

“I’ve ruptured seven discs in my back, and my knees are pretty much shot, so it’s difficult for me to stand, much less walk,” said Honeycutt, Claremore DAV Chapter 44 commander. “Plus, my hearing is partially gone from years of explosions and field artillery exercises — getting around is difficult at best for me.”

Nevertheless, the ailing soldier faces a bigger challenge now than he ever did during his time of service — the fight for the continued survival of the Claremore chapter of the Disabled American Veterans.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that the Claremore DAV is facing a real crisis,” Honeycutt said. “As our older members, those who fought in World War II and Korea, have been passing on, no new members have been stepping in to take their place — our membership is about half of what it was two years ago — we’re dying, and this is a call to arms.”

In addition to the “staggering” loss of members, Honeycutt said lack of funding and donations continues to be a problem with regard to the DAV.

“We get an annual stipend from the government, which basically keeps the building going as far as utilities, but that’s it,” he said. “There’s no funding for any improvements to the building, for activities for members, or anything else — anything we do comes out of our own pockets, and as most of us are on disability, we don’t have a lot of money to spare.”

Despite recent pancake breakfast and raffle fund-raisers, Honeycutt said the group barely “broke even.”

So desperate is the group’s financial situation that when the Chapter was to receive its 50-year-plaque in Oklahoma City, it was only a donation from the local VFW that allowed Honeycutt to make the trip to receive it.

“I want this Chapter to be around for another 50 years, but it’s not going to be if we don’t start getting new members,” he said. “We need help — help to survive.”

Honeycutt said the continued survival of the DAV is important as it’s a harbor for veterans to reminisce with those who have been through the rigors of war.

“I didn’t serve during wartime myself, so I’m kind of a ‘Veteran of Nameless Wars’, but I was disabled while in service,” he said. “There are a lot of emotions you go through when you come back after being disabled — feelings of not being useful, feelings of wanting to forget about everything, feelings of just giving up — but you can’t.

“I went through that myself for a long time, but I finally pulled my head out of my dufflebag and realized that I still had a purpose, and at the DAV, it’s to help our boys and girls who come home from combat to deal with what they’re going through,” he said. “A lot of them come back with spirits that are more broken than their bodies — and we understand that — we’ve been through those feelings ourselves. We’re here to help them, but we can’t be here to help them if we don’t start getting help ourselves.”

Tax-deductible donations to the Claremore Disabled American Veterans Chapter 44 can be made at RCB Bank in Claremore.

Contact Tom Fink, maned@swbell.net.