SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) Sailors extended helping hands at the Veterans Village of San Diego's 30th Annual Stand Down July 21-23.
Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) Stand Down is an annual three-day event, and more than one thousand San Diego homeless veterans received a range of free services, including substance abuse counseling, health care and legal assistance.
"Essentially we build a small town for these veterans," said Ron Stark, VVSD logistics Coordinator and site set up manager. "Anything a small town would have, we will have it here for the homeless veterans to use. We take them away from the war on the streets and give them a safe place to stay for three days. It gives the veterans and their families a break."
The event is held in a tent city constructed by active duty military volunteers at the San Diego High School sports fields. This marked the 30th year for the annual Stand Down event.
When veterans walked into the gates of Stand Down, volunteers greeted them with a handshake and open arms. They were assigned to a tent where tent leaders assisted them in accessing the services they needed; immediate visits to the clothing tent, showers, barbers, makeovers, medical, dental and optical services were provided.
"The philosophy of Stand Down is to provide some of the essentials that these homeless veterans can't receive on a daily basis," said Stark. "Stand Down is like a boot camp for these veterans."
For the Sailors and Marines that volunteered at Stand Down, it could be a wake-up call.
"While on active duty, the service member receives everything he or she needs," said Stark. "Once you leave active duty, sometimes it's not that easy. Coming off active duty, some people fall into a hard transitioning period and end up on the streets. So for some of the active duty volunteers this is an eye opening experience."
Among the olive green and khaki tents, both Sailors and Marines in uniform provided security, conducted health and dental screenings and helped out where ever they could. Master Chief Joe Murphy, a NMCSD senior enlisted leader was among these uniforms.
"I have a lot of family members that served in the military before me and I know some of them are experiencing hard times," said Murphy. "I wish this was something that was offered around the country. To me, this is a better way to give back to the community. It brings it home to me. I really want to give back to the Sailors and all the service men that have gone before us."
Veterans Village of San Diego is a non-profit organization founded in 1981 to give homeless and mentally wounded veterans a chance to get back on their feet with its "No One Left Behind" creed.
"The Naval Medical Center staff looks forward to this event every year," said Captain Shannon Johnson, NMCSD Executive Officer. "We want to ensure you, our veterans are not alone. We have tremendous respect for all the contributions you have made to the security of our nation, and we are grateful for the sacrifice."
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