Veterans ‘stand down’ to receive services

Annual event provides clothes, health, housing aid

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 

Almost 150 local veterans accessed a buffet-style array of services Monday in the third annual “stand down.”

Some made it a family affair.

“We’re seeing more family members,” said Karla Bean, one of the organizers of the event, held at Vancouver Elks Lodge.

One of the veterans had her two kids in mind as she browsed through the “stores” area, which was stocked with donated clothing and shoes.

“I’m looking for cold-weather gear,” said Killian Hough, who was wearing a “Desert Storm” veteran’s cap.

“I’m trying not to lose my home, but I’m about a half-step from foreclosure,” Hough said.

A lot of community resources also were available, Hough added.

The Department of Veterans Affairs was well represented, offering immediate as well as long-term assistance.

There were several nursing stations where vets could get flu shots or blood-pressure screenings. At another table, people concerned they might have diabetes could get their blood sugar checked.

“This engages the veteran in health care,” said Valerie Heikkinen, a nurse at the Vancouver VA campus. “Some are just learning the steps.”

Those interested in the next step had a chance to visit another station and talk with a representative from the VA health care system.

Other resource providers included the Cowlitz Tribe, the state Department of Social and Health Services and the Vancouver Housing Authority.

The Free Clinic of Southwest Washington provided its mobile dental clinic, where Gene Ells got some relief.

“Two of my teeth were busted off, so they were able to go in and remove the rest of them,” Ells said through clenched teeth.

The right side of his jaw was clamped down on gauze. That’s why Ells had to pass up an ice cream bar when Bean walked up with a box of frozen treats.

“I’d love to,” Ells said regretfully.

That sort of situation was reflected in how the stand-down committee organized the event. “You eat first,” explained committee board member Joe Fettig, “before you get your dental work done.”