We arrived at the grassy basin once again on Friday, the weather identical to Thursday. The difference today though, the population of veterans and volunteers had more than doubled! We could tell immediately that we were going to have a very active day. More tents and RV’s had been set up, most for healthcare services. The Red Cross also sent in a truck and representatives were handing out various good to the vets and their families.
The strange part about it was that this event on the second day almost seemed like base camp in a war zone. In a way, it sort of was—just a very different type of war. This was a war on homelessness, a crusade to remember the forgotten, a battle to provide. The much needed reinforcements had arrived. The wounds of the warriors were not plainly visible, but look close enough, and you could see them as clear as the northern California sun. That is why so many volunteers showed up—to tend to the wounds that had been left untreated for so very long.
I had the chance to speak with a VA social worker who was in attendance that day, named Mike Miracle. Mike was a very pleasant individual with a calming demeanor. Mike had served in this capacity for 37 years with the Army and the VA. He told me something that really had never occurred to me. He said that he still has clients from WWII and Korea that cope with PTSD in some capacity. Can you imagine having to cope with troubling memories for 60+ years? It makes you respect these men and women even more.
The second day was much warmer than the first, but it didn’t stop the massive show of support. I met several veterans who were overwhelmed with gratitude from the event. Lanny Montgomery, a Vietnam veteran was all smiles when I spoke to him. Lanny started a PTSD support group for veterans in the area who couldn’t seem to find the help they were looking for. He said that simply discussing the common problems that PTSD causes, amongst a group of people who know exactly how you are suffering, can make such a big difference. He also mentioned that it was actually his group that helped to pave the way for such Stand Down events in the area, and that it flattering to know that DVNF had come all the way from DC to help out.
As the day began to wind down, I caught a glimpse of something across the basin and became interested. People kept approaching this gentleman who was wearing a red blazer, and then he would stop and take a picture with them. Assuming he was some sort of celebrity I began to walk closer to the tent he was under. I soon realized that this man was much older than anyone else I had seen at the Stand Down. Then, I figured out who he was. His name was Lenard Yates—one of the original Tuskegee Airmen! He was kind enough to let me take a picture of him, as well as another veteran who was just as eager to meet Mr. Yates as I was. What a great way to end the day.
We left Marysville overwhelmed at how much effort was put into this Stand Down. We were also pleased knowing that veterans in this part of California are in good hands thanks to the appreciative and compassionate people that make up the community.