Formerly Homeless Vet Urges Stand Down Participation

Many newspapers are running articles about the 2018 Ventura County Stand Down happening July 27 to 29 at the California Army National Guard Armory in Ventura (see related story on Page 11).

I really don’t want to just write another press release, but I also don’t want to miss the opportunity to notify homeless vets about the Stand Down.

My neighbor Stephen Prince, a Vietnam veteran, doesn’t want to attend because he feels anxiety in large crowds. But he did mention that when he was homeless, he would spend a lot of time at the library, where he saw many homeless reading the newspapers.

This led me to think: What if a veteran has reading issues? What if a vet needs glasses to read but doesn’t have—or can’t afford— any? What if a vet doesn’t read the newspaper?

All possible reasons a vet might not know about the Stand Down.

Mikey Simpson, Army Veteran; 2018 Ventura County Stand DownHere are some reasons I avoided Stand Down when I was homeless. (I write these so that friends and family members of vets might have insight into why their loved one might also resist going.)

I didn’t like people going out of their way to do nice things for me. I don’t know why that was, but it just felt awkward and I don’t want that kind of attention.

I didn’t always like being in the military. Being in the field for three days or longer with a whole company of fellow soldiers was not always pleasant. The tent smells of feet, someone might wake up in the middle of the night screaming about spiders, cliques form, and hierarchies of male dominance develop.

I don’t want to have to be the beta to some alpha male. If I can’t take them in a fight and they do something disrespectful and I stand up to them, I’m going to get my butt kicked. I don’t mind an occasional butt-kicking, but I’m certainly not looking for one.

I say all this in good fun.

But in all seriousness, all the services vets need will be available in this one location, 1270 Arundell Ave., so they can get the benefits deserved for sacrifices they made. Get that tooth fixed. Get a haircut. Get the veterans court to dismiss that unpaid ticket in exchange for community service. Initiate the process to receive VA benefits.

Help your vet benefit from the services that so many agencies are making the effort to provide. If not now, when?

Please listen, homeless and off-track vets: Avoid the temptation to stay away.

The only reason I have a home to stay in right now is because I received assistance obtaining a voucher through the VA. If you go to the Stand Down, you too can get on track to getting a voucher.

The Stand Down provides showers unlike the Army field trainings I have been to, so that alone is reason to go.

These are the inspiring words from the founding Stand Down document published by the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego:

“Stand Down is a belief in the triumph of the human spirit over extraordinary odds. It grows out of a conviction that the overwhelming number of homeless veterans on the streets of America is unacceptable, and that the veteran community itself must respond.”

Vets, to preregister, go to venturacountystanddown.org.

Readers: If you are a friend or family member of a homeless or off-track vet, please reach out and let them know this Stand Down event is about to happen. Cut out this article and hand it to them. Offer them a ride. I offered a ride to my neighbor and he offered to watch my dog if I want to go for a few hours. Vets helping vets—that is what it is all about.

As the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego remind us: “Stand Down was conceived from the ground up by veterans specifically for veterans.

“It is designed to transform the despair and immobility of homelessness into the momentum necessary to reconnect with the community and get off the street.”

That’s right, get off the street, then you will never again have to stay in a tent with smelly feet for three days—that is, unless you deciding to go on a camping trip by yourself.

Rafael Stoneman, a former Ventura County homeless veteran, now volunteers for the Camarillo-based Gold Coast Veterans Foundation, a nonprofit organization. For more details, visit gcvf.org.

Source: The Camarillo Acorn – July 27, 2018 edition