Veterans poured out of buses on Friday, forming lines in front of the entrance to Clark County Veterans Center’s annual Stand Down at the Armed Forces Reserve Center.
On the brisk, windy morning, many of the veterans enthusiastically accepted hot cups of coffee, most of them asking for it black. Many of them were homeless, but not all.
“We care,” said Richard Dipalermo, a 20-year Navy veteran and volunteer greeting the veterans. “We’re trying to educate the veterans on all the opportunities they can get as a veteran.”
The Stand Down is a one-stop-shop for veterans and their families in Clark County, with a wide range of resources — including housing assistance, Veterans Affairs claims, haircuts, a mobile dental van, job opportunities, clothing and lunch.
The event was also full of live music, old war stories shared between veterans and the smell of barbecue from a nearby food truck. A massage artist rubbed the backs of veterans, and service dogs receive treats and care from the Humane Society.
“The providers that we get, we hope they’re useful to them because it’s not only for homeless veterans. It’s for all veterans,” said Lori Pugh, president of Clark County Veterans Center.
In a military context, “Stand down” means to relax after being alert and on duty. In wartime, troops who needed rest would leave the battlefield to a secure base camp area, where they could rest, eat and take care of personal hygiene, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
Now, a Stand Down refers to local events where veterans can relax and receive the services they need. Although not all the veterans at these events are homeless, the services are geared toward providing homeless veterans resources on which they might be missing out.
Clark County held its first Stand Down in 2009. At last year’s Stand Down, 157 veterans identified as homeless.
The center arranged for vans to pick up veterans from various locations across Clark County, so transportation was not an issue for any veterans wanting to access the event.
Brian Grose, a 65-year-old veteran who served in the Marine Corps in Hawaii, said he came to the Stand Down after finding out he did not qualify for a housing voucher. He hoped to find some housing assistance and other resources that might be able to help him move out of his temporary housing.
He also came to get a haircut, which he hadn’t had in around four months, and a new jacket, he said.
Rebecca Nickerson, a veteran who served four years in the Navy, said she is set to move into an apartment in Vancouver soon and wanted to find out what resources were available for veterans.
“I think it’s cool that they have this stuff going on because, for a long time, people didn’t know that there are resources for veterans,” she said.
It’s common for veterans to be unaware of some of the resources they have access to, Pugh said. Pugh, whose husband was a Vietnam veteran, found out recently that she, herself, was eligible for an insurance plan that could save her money.
“This is to connect everybody with services that they wouldn’t necessarily think they needed,” said Pugh.
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