Homeless vets “Stand Down” for a day

stand down

On the 70th anniversary of D-day, hundreds of homeless vets lined up in Midtown this morning to get help.

Some had been in line since last night at the Scottish Rite temple, 1330 Linwood Blvd.

Volunteers from the Heart of American Stand Down took in and provided donations like clothing, shoes, boots, toiletries and blue jeans.

Vets also go from table to table inside, where groups help them with things like housing and substance abuse.

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders arrived early, along with donations from county employees.

“One out of four homeless are vets,” he said. “Programs like this not only link people up with services but highlight the issue.”

Among county donations were two pairs of new boots with white writing on the soles. One pair marked the service date of a woman’s father in World War II. The other pair was marked for her son who served in the war in Iraq.

Sanders thanked Bob Waechter, one of the founders of the non-profit Stand Down group in 1993.

Waechter is a former Marine who served in the Vietnam War and a former Veteran’s Administration executive.

He worked with what is called readjustment counseling services in the VA and calls it the best job he ever had.

Vets make up one percent of the population but up to 30 percent of the nation’s homeless, he said. “They say the cycle of homelessness maxes out five years after you get out of the military,” he said.

“By then they’ve had six or seven jobs, they self medicate to sleep and it leads to a bad situation.”

PTSD, anxiety, substance abuse – for whatever reason – vets might find themselves awake most of the night.

“You go into work and somebody says, hello, how are you and you flip,” he said.

“Stand Down” is a term used in war for a break from the fighting, and the events are held each year in 151 cities nationwide.

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