COARSEGOLD – All veterans and their families are invited to a very special Veterans’ Stand Down on Saturday, Aug. 17 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Yosemite Lakes Community Church.
Organizers including Commander Terry Cole encourage any and all veterans to stop by for free services throughout the day, including refreshments, music and entertainment, all sponsored by Caring Veterans of America.
Music will be provided by the band Crossroads, and vets can get anything from free food and beverages, to free military gear, and even a free hair cut if they so wish. Veterans Affairs department counselors will be on hand along with benefit advisors.
In addition to the music, which starts at 11 a.m., guests can expect some pretty exciting entertainment.
Commander Cole is a founding member of the Caring Vets, comprised of “veterans serving veterans,” and their families. The former combat engineer and paratrooper, Sp. 5/ 101st Airborne Division, was in Vietnam from 1966 – 68. He is surprised at how much the word needs to get out about what’s available for those who need it.
“It’s amazing. We still run into people that didn’t know veterans could get any help,” he explains, “This is an organization that we originally put together 20 years ago with about five guys in northern California, when it was taking a long time for veterans to get their benefits.”
Now, the faith-based nonprofit has at least 70 members and has grown to include a board of directors. They are producing a magazine and are said to be heading toward national recognition and expansion.
This is the fourth mountain area stand down this year, with others having taken place in Mariposa, North Fork and Oakhurst. The Oakhurst stand down last May drew about 600 people. In Coarsegold this weekend Commander Cole is expecting about 300 vets including their families.
“There’s going to be a band, we’re going to feed them, give them gear and some good entertainment.”
Caring Vets Stand Down coordinator Brandon Murray served with the 1st Cavalry Division/HHC Scout Platoon. He offers understanding on why these Stand Downs and other efforts toward helping veterans are so important.
“We believe a lot of veterans aren’t getting the services they need or that they’re not going in to get the services they need. At these Stand Downs, things are a lot more at home and relaxed,” says the Gulf War veteran, who is experienced with injuries. “We are veterans. We have the same issues and the same problems, so we understand.”
Volunteers will be on hand to help with any veteran issues. Crossroads Band will play and sponsors have arranged for something not normally seen at Yosemite Lakes Church: wildly popular Lucha Xtreme pro wrestlers, in action.
Lucha Xtreme professional wrestling is seen on Fresno’s channel KAIL-TV every Saturday night at 9 p.m. Veterans and their families will not have to wait until Saturday night, though, because some of the “LuchaStars” are said to be performing at the stand down, starting at 11 a.m. The event is completely free and will be filmed for television.
It’s all for the vets, says Lucha Xtreme spokesperson James Olinger.
“We at Lucha Xtreme Wrestling Entertainment believe in supporting our veterans every chance we get. At the Stand Down, we will be offering a unique type of family entertainment featuring some of our top LuchaStars.”
The term “stand down” is used in the military to refer to a time when spent combat units require and are allotted time to rest and recover from battle, in a safe and secure environment. In the case of the Coarsegold Stand Down, and others like it across the nation, the words apply to community-based programs meant to help homeless and at-risk veterans get the supplies and services needed to survive stateside.
The United States Census shows nearly 2,000,000 veterans in California (2007-2011), with 2,334 in Mariposa County, alone.
A special report by the VA indicates that veterans are over-represented in the homeless population. Veterans in 2010 accounted for 10% of the total adult U.S. population and 15% of the homeless adult population. In rural areas, the number of veterans “on the streets” is often higher.
Caring Veterans of America is reaching out to help veterans and their families, and anyone with questions is encouraged to call Commander Terry Cole at (559) 760-5056 or Brandon Murray at (559) 676-8463 or email Commander Cole