MARIPOSA – All veterans are invited to a Veterans’ Stand Down on Saturday, Mar. 9, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., outdoors at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds.
The Mariposa Veterans’ Stand-Down encourages all area vets to visit for an array of free services and amenities, throughout an upbeat day complete with food, refreshments and music.Volunteer and Vietnam veteran Dusty Luker is in his second year organizing the Mariposa Stand-Down.
“We’ll have free food, pants, coats, sleeping bags, free military gear and more,” Luker promises.
“There will be a mobile command center on site, and counselors and staff from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Fresno, to provide information, make appointments, and get them signed up for any help they may need,” says Luker.
There will also be a physicians’ assistant available for physical check-ups, and veterans benefits advisors will help navigate the often complex field of services available to those who’ve served. Free haircuts are offered to anyone who wishes a trim.
“Last year, we had about 250 veterans come out,” says the former Crew Chief and Door Gunner who spends all his time helping others. “Of those, 23 hadn’t registered for services through the VA.”
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 Mariposa 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.
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. http://www.va.gov/VETDATA/docs/SpecialReports/Homeless_Veterans_2009-2010.pdf
The United States Census shows nearly 2,000,000 veterans in California (2007-2011), with 2,334 in Mariposa County, alone. Luker, a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Caring Vets, says veterans from all over are invited to the Mariposa Veterans Stand-Down.
The Government’s Suicide Data Report for 2012 noted that veterans are killing themselves in record numbers, daily, resulting mostly from the physical and emotional pain, anguish and other effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Stand-Down is one way the community is reaching out to these vets.
“We want to bring veterans to Mariposa for the Stand-Down. We want to help all combat vets, especially those who haven’t yet been reached. We are losing a lot to suicide – more in this past year than we lost in combat,” says Luker, who speaks from experience about hard times, and offers hope.
“We were there once. We understand.”
For more information, contact Dusty Luker at (209) 742-5873.