As many as 600 homeless veterans will be helped Saturday during the South Atlantic Center for Veterans Education and Training Inc.'s Operation Stand Down 2010, representatives from the organization said.
In its third year, the event will feature 168 area organizations offering free guidance and other aid to any veteran in need who has honorably served in the military. The stand down will last from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.
"It's really wonderful to see these organizations come together in a coordinated effort to help these veterans," said LTC(R) Dr. Richard Allen, SACVET treasurer. "I know the sacrifices they have made. They did something to help the country, and now they need help."
During the stand down, the organizations will offer aid in areas such as benefits and pension, housing, legal counsel, voter registration and Social Security, SACVET president SGM(R) Mike Dover said. There will also be slots for medical, dental and eye exams.
Upon arrival, veterans will be processed into the Department of Veterans Affairs system and required to visit at least 15 stations.
The list of participating organizations includes Martin Army Community Hospital and national and state departments of labor. Food, clothing, haircuts and other resources also will be available.
In its four years of operation, SACVET has gained the support of numerous individuals and businesses, including U.S. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop. This year, the event has almost doubled from 90 service organizations last year.
"It has grown so much, it surprises me," Dover said. "It's just absolutely amazing."
Considering a Soldier's responsibility to defend the country, he said this event is an appropriate way to begin rehabilitating those who are struggling.
"We require them to maintain our freedoms," he said. "Veterans deserve something special."
To "stand down" troops means to give them a break from front-line combat, and a break is what Dover wants for these veterans.
"When you're in the military, you are taught a certain mindset, and it's hard to just change that when you get out," Dover said. "When they've been out on the street, many of them can't function ... because all they know is military. They just can't handle the pressures of life, and that's what leads to homelessness."
In past years, SACVET has helped homeless veterans who walk in off the street and those from hundreds of miles away, he said. They have ranged from 19 to 80 years old.
"No veteran who shows up for help will be turned away," Dover said.
For more information or to contribute, call 706-593-3393 or e-mail mdover@gcvret.org.

23% of the homeless population are veterans
47% served Vietnam-era
17% served post-Vietnam
15% served pre-Vietnam
67% served three or more years
33% were stationed in war zone
25% have used VA homeless services
89% received an honorable discharge

Source: National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

Page last updated Thu April 15th, 2010 at 16:43