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Local community aids veterans

Courtesy graphic

Courtesy graphic

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Vandenberg Airmen and members of the surrounding community are teaming up to support veterans for Santa Barbara County's fourth annual Veterans Stand Down at the Santa Maria Fairpark, Oct. 17.

The Stand Down will provide necessary resources to hundreds of veterans in need.

"The Stand Down will bring together private and public resources," said Chief Master Sgt. Jason Price, 30th Launch Group superintendent. "It will provide medical, dental, vision screenings, haircuts, clothing, shoes, hygiene products, Veterans Affairs services, legal assistance, showers, veterinarian services, pet micro-chipping and free meals for breakfast and lunch."

In previous years the event was both successful and well attended, providing aid to a multitude of veterans and their families.

"Last year we had more than 450 veterans and their families attend," said Sandy Agalos, Santa Barbara County Stand Down coordinator. "This year we are planning for around 500."

With the growing popularity of the event, the preparations, as well the amount of volunteers needed, have increased.

"Team Vandenberg is supporting the Stand Down in a myriad of ways," said Price. "Each group had a representative who led clothing drives throughout the summer, to receive items of dire need such as clothes, undergarments and toiletry items. This was in addition to collection sites at heavy traffic buildings on base. Furthermore, base personnel assisted logistical efforts to shuttle donated items to central collection points throughout the summer and fall. The Top III donated excess items from the Airman's Attic. Finally, base personnel are assisting during the week to help stage and tear down at the Fairpark Convention Center and escort veterans around the park to receive services."

Transitioning from the military to civilian life can take its toll on some people, and who better to help veterans when they are in rough patch than other veterans and military personnel.

"I don't want anyone to be forgotten," said Jan Kays, Air Force veteran and volunteer for the event. "There are so many struggling veterans that are just trying to survive. The resources are available to help them but it can be extremely difficult to know where to go and what to do. This event brings all those services to one place so we can help those who have given so much."

Set up is similar to a job fair, registration is not required although it is encouraged.

"Veterans can pre-apply for the event, and that saves them time at the gate or veterans can fill out the application when they get here," said Agalos. "We have Vandenberg personnel to assist veterans with understanding what services are available and where they are located. Applications can be printed from our website at www.sbcountystanddown.com or they can call (805) 346-8402. We have close to 100 service providers, including medical, dental, food, clothing, showers, haircuts, and employers all free of charge."