North state homeless veterans and their families receive a variety of free services through a program called Stand Down. The 12th annual program was held this year on October 26 and 27, then wrapped up Saturday morning on the 28th at the Anderson Fairgrounds.
Various medical services included flu shots, podiatry and dental assistance. If emergency help was needed, veterans were taken to the Redding VA clinic. A clothing store was set up with many clothing options, including jackets. Vets were given hair cuts, beard trims, and there were several organizations to help get vets back onto their feet, and hopefully, off the streets.
There was help from the DMV, and employment and counseling services, along with drug and alcohol counseling. Although some vets say they prefer to be homeless, they still need the variety of free care options offered. Vets and their families were provided cots and slept at the fairgrounds during their three-day stay at Stand Down. And a pet area was set up for all veterans' homeless pets.
I'm a member of the Vietnam Veterans of Shasta County. Eddie McAllister is president of local 357. His main assistant is Karrie Walter. Vietnam Vets took care of breakfast, and two other organizations prepped and served lunch and dinner. Stand Down offers three square meals a day with only breakfast on Saturday. Sack lunches were provided for the veteras to take with them on Saturday after breakfast. The Vietnam Vets began serving breakfast at 7 a.m., and had to be in the kitchen at 5 a.m. to prep. Cracking eggs was one of my duties. Chef Jim Leedy, who's the culinary chef at Enterprise High School, was in charge. He was assisted by two other chefs who helped cook all three meals.
Since I only dealt with breakfast, I'll mention what breakfast offered, although I know other meals included the skilled execution of salmon and tri-tip. Breakfast included scrambled eggs made with mild cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese. Some scrambled had sausage in them. There were hash browns, sausage links, and biscuits with gravy. Oatmeal was made with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Bagels and donuts were served. Breakfast was delicious and incredible as were the other meals that filled many a grateful belly.
We used the Fusaro Hall kitchen. Fusaro Hall also housed the medical unit and clothing store. A coffee station was set up outside under a red canopy. Meals were served under a green canopy of ornamental lights next to the seating area. This was my first year with Stand Down. I found it an honor to serve our homeless veterans and their families. And it was an honor to work with all volunteers. There was no ego or self interest involved. All volunteers came together in one spirit, with one common goal, which was caring for some of our nation's bravest men and women.
It was hard to see so many homeless veterans, and to look into the faces of their kids. And although I realize the need for vets to have dogs, it pains me knowing some dogs probably aren't getting the proper care they need. It didn't matter if it was a veteran, a child, or a dog - there was a look of despair and sadness in them all. I’m happy to say, all volunteers supporting Stand Down were giving out hope. It was a hand-up, not a hand-out.
I was on the serving line at closing Saturday morning. The last man to come through the line looked lost and needed help. He told me he'd just heard about Stand Down and wanted to know if he could get some help. He told me he was new at being homeless, but was starting to get use to it. The only breakfast I had left was hot gravy, and I put that over a bagel for him. Then I took the homeless veteran to the registration area where he was able to start the process of getting help to get himself off the streets.
Carl Bott from KCNR 1480 AM was there to cover Stand Down. There were a lot of people helping veterans in numerous areas of the Stand Down event.
We need to take care of our vets. The words "homeless" and "veterans" are two words that should never go together.