By PV2 Alyse CookeOctober 1, 2008
The United States Army and El Paso locals came together Thursday and Friday, to help needy veterans. The Stand Down event took place at the National Guard center in El Paso, Texas. Homeless veterans were invited to receive free meals, haircuts, clothing and other help.
"It's an opportunity for them to come in to get meals, hygiene [products], clothing, [and] blankets," said Carl L. Robinson, a coordinator for the Stand Down, DAV Post 187. "We connect them with the social services that are available in the community."
Lester W. Lane, disabled Navy Seabee veteran from Goldendale, WA, came to the Stand Down for help Thursday and Friday.
Lane suffers from medical problems such as seizures, scoliosis and decompressed discs since serving in the military.
"A lot of us are overqualified with way too many skills, but most of us are just trying to work," said Lane.
Lane said he hopes to become an advocate with the National Association of Social Workers for those who are down-and-out, along with helping people who suffer from the effects of natural disasters.
"Some support us, but there's a lot of things people don't understand," said Lane. "We do our service and put in our time. When so many use and abuse the system, it hurts the ones who really need it," said Lane. "But things like this are helpful."
Volunteers were excited to help the servicemembers who defended our country in the past.
"I believe in helping the people," said Sgt. Raymond Wilson, a soldier from Fox Company BSB, FSC. "We passed out sleeping bags and certain clothing items to prepare them for the winter time."
"It makes me feel good that I help someone else and give them something they don't have," said Wilson.
Military gear such as backpacks, boots, jackets, canteens, and other necessities were set up on tables for the veterans to take with them. Breakfast and lunch were provided by local organizations, and the volunteers served the food. The veterans were also transported to PiPO's Hair Cutting School in El Paso, where they received free haircuts.
Stations with different types of services were also set up in the facility to provide the needy veterans with care they may need.
Brenda Sikorski, a suicide prevention representative and former soldier, was at the Stand Down to help our local veterans. Because veterans have a very high rate of suicide, nearly double that of civilians, "we need to do all we can to keep them alive," said Sikorski. "They've done a lot to serve our country and we're here to serve them."
Veterans were also able to receive help filing claims and obtaining benefits they may have missed out on. "Some of them forget that they need to go to the VA [veteran's affairs] to keep getting their benefits," said Juan Ruiz Jr., the senior vice commander for Disabled Veterans Post 187.
"It's a wonderful cause; even my students understand the need to reach out. Everyone has a need for medicine," said Anthony D. Turner, medical instructor at western technical college in El Paso and former airman.
Turner and his students volunteered Friday at the Stand Down to help the veterans by checking blood pressure and screening for medical problems such as diabetes.
"We'll definitely be out here next year, there's no reason I wouldn't."
Joe G. Brooks, Army veteran of 24 years, participates in the program for veterans with disabilities and drug and alcohol addictions.
"They take care of the vets real good here," said Brooks. "They're helping me to start all over."