Smoky Mountain Veteran Stand Down is Aug. 21
The Smoky Mountain Veteran Stand Down will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, at the Macon County Community Facility Building, located at 1288 Georgia Road, Franklin. This event is a culmination of the efforts of over 50 donors, sponsors and agencies to provide one day of care and services to veterans who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless and low-income veterans who are unable to afford basic care.
“The term ‘stand down’ originated from the military,” said Mark Schuler, a Vietnam veteran with the U.S. Marine Corps who was responsible for facilitating the event. “It is a time when service members stand down, or back away, from fighting on the front lines. They move back to a safe location where they receive hot meals, clean clothing and supplies, before being sent back to the combat zone.”
Stand downs like the one being held in Franklin originated in San Diego, California, in the 1980s and have been held throughout the country with great success — there has been a stand down in Asheville for the last four years.
The idea for holding a stand down in the area has been discussed for several years. In October of last year, the first stand down committee was formed, with representatives of veteran service offices across the seven western counties, the VA Charles George Medical Center in Asheville and the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Division of Workforce Solutions.
“We solicited help from our community, so our community of agencies and volunteers are sponsoring this event,” said Schuler. “Some agencies have provided financial resources, while many others are volunteering their time and resources to provide services.”
Sponsors include private businesses, church ministries, nonprofits, for-profits and numerous volunteers from the community.
“It really is an excellent public/private relationship,” said Schuler.
Services for veterans will include haircuts, military surplus gear, dental work, optometry, veterans benefit administration, local education services, legal services, housing support, medical and mental health services, veterans service officers and supportive services for veteran families. A hot breakfast and lunch will be served to veterans and their families.
“The support from our community is overwhelming. We are blessed we live in an area that always responds to folks who are in need. It is sad that we are still talking about veteran homelessness in 2014 … it is wonderful to know there are folks in our area who understand our mission, who care and are willing to help us take care of our needy veterans.”
There was even a 6-year old girl who gave $1 out of her Tooth Fairy money to support the cause.
“Her family, barely surviving, certainly could not afford to give us anything,” said Schuler. “But yet, this little girl understood our mission and wanted to help.”
Free transportation is available at the following locations:
— For Haywood County: 7 a.m. at the Open Door Soup Kitchen, located at 32 Commerce St., Waynesville. Call 452-3846.
— For Jackson County: 7:30 a.m. at the Jackson County Justice Center, located at 401 Grindstaff Road, Sylva. Call 586-4055.
— For Swain County: 7:45 a.m. at the State of Franklin, located at 125 Brendle St., Bryson City. Call 488-3047.
For more information, call Schuler at 456-6061 or Mike Casey at 837-7407.