COARSEGOLD – The stage was set, both figuratively and literally, as about 300 people came and went outside Yosemite Lakes Community Church for a day-long celebration of those who have served in the United States armed forces.
Known as a Veterans Stand Down, the event was organized by Caring Veterans of America, with the help of many along the way.
Among the organizations represented was the Veterans Affairs department, who parked a mobile command station where people could go to get advice and information from qualified counselors on benefits and programs offered to military members and their families.
All day long, the traditional country music band Crossroads played, lending a light-hearted and lively feel to the atmosphere.
The Stand Down is like a special convention combined with a fair and a party, where veterans and their families can walk around from one area to the next, grab a plate of food, some gear, a little advice, maybe get a haircut, and always run into someone who is happy to talk to them.
Many long tables were pushed together to accommodate the new clothes and supplies that were brought in for veterans to pick and choose from, including everything from “long johns” to boots and a host of valuable necessities in between.
There was an organized line for hair cuts being given without charge by Oakhurst Hair Designer Hair by Sunday, and while many of the vets were sporting facial hair, the hairdresser was available to trim just as the customer liked it.
Behind the grill and at the head of the line for food was the place to be, as a friendly group of veterans served up a delicious free meal for the people and their families. The Caring Vets’ motto is “veterans serving veterans,” and in this case, they were serving up a plate of hot and tasty food.
Commander Terry Cole of the Caring Vets would be one of the first to tell you that the real stars were the area’s veterans themselves. Of every age and representing just about every war, there was a lot of friendliness and hand-shaking going on.
Plenty of family members of all ages came out to enjoy, and they were ready when the center-stage ring opened up for a special performance by popular LuchaStars, celebrities of Lucha Xtreme professional wrestling. Normally a $25 ticket, the group performed gratis on behalf of the vets.
The show was being filmed and will air in the next couple weeks according to producers, who have promised to let us know when the date is final. In the meantime you can check out their website at Lucha Xtreme.
The term “stand down” is used in the military to refer to a time when spent combat units 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 veterans, including those who are homeless and at risk, get the supplies and services they need to survive.
The United States Census shows nearly 2,000,000 veterans in California (2007-2011), with 8,247 in Madera 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.
Stay tuned for the next Veteran’s Stand Down, date and location to be announced, and in the meantime check out the website Caring Veterans of America.