Stand Down an opportunity to help veterans.

Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 1:00 am

Stand Down an opportunity to help veterans By Joey Chenoweth, Staff Writer

Veteran organizations from around the state will be gathering at the Pinal County Fairgrounds to participate in a stand down for veterans in need.

The day-long event will take place from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., with numerous booths providing information to those who are in need of services or products, and in the past have been left to fend on their own. These services include Veteran Affair benefits, VA medical services, employment and training opportunities, housing assistance, legal aid assistance, Motor Vehicle Department information, clothing, food and substance abuse counseling. All veterans and families of veterans are encouraged to attend, with children’s activities and entertainment also on the schedule.

This will be the first ever stand down to take place in Pinal County, with veterans having in the past to go to Tucson or Phoenix to attend such an event. In military jargon, a stand down is “a time of relaxation following a state of readiness or alert”, according to Diann Lesueur, founder and president of the Open Hands Outreach Program (OHOP) in Coolidge, which last week received certification as a non-profit organization and will be one of the organizations in attendance at the event.

“The purpose of this particular stand down is to connect veterans, and in many cases their families, who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, with needed resources and services,” Lesueur said.

This is the latest in a string of efforts to try to end the poverty and suffering of the 34,000 veterans in Pinal County, who are often enduring injuries or Post Traumatic Stress from their time at war, leading to many other problems as they continue to be neglected by the community.

“For many, there is an inability to fit in following their service,” Lesueur said. “Many military jobs do not transfer to civilian employment. There is a loss of self-sufficiency and independence. Available services are underwhelmed, and the VA is on average 320 days behind in terms of enrolling veterans and processing claims.”

OHOP last month hosted Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick to discuss the ever-growing need to more aid to veterans, especially in a county where the VA does not have a tangible presence. Many from around the community came to that meeting, and expressed their concerns over what veterans’ futures have in store for them.

“Every day is Veterans Day,” Lesueur said. “No U.S. veteran should ever have to stand in line for food. No veteran should be denied the rights and services he or she has earned. Veterans are not looking for welfare – just what they earned through their service to the country.”

Organizers are looking for more volunteers to help with connecting veterans to services. Those interested are to contact Danny Meehan and 520-374-3030.