‘Stand Down’ event draws vet­er­ans seek­ing as­sis­tance

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By HAN­NAH TROYER Staff writer

Around 40 vet­er­ans were able to start claims with the VA and learn in­for­ma­tion about lo­cal pro­grams and or­ga­ni­za­tions specif­i­cally meant to help them at this year’s La Plata Amer­i­can Le­gion Stand Down event.

The stand down — which took place April 9 — didn’t have as many at­ten­dees as last year, but brain­child of the event, Post Com­man­der Buddy Hin­dle, was still moved to tears.

“We used to get so many calls be­fore and guys com­ing in [to get help with the VA process]. We didn’t have any­one qual­i­fied here,” Hin­dle said. “They’ve made [the claims process] a lit­tle sim­pler. But back then, peo­ple like my brother for one, he just fi­nally gave up. Just see­ing all of th­ese peo­ple here to­day try­ing to help vet­er­ans — telling them what’s out there and if they need any help of any sort — it’s great.”

The event had 28 dif­fer­ent ven­dors. Banks, real es­tate com­pa­nies, the USO, Boots 2 Heels, and the Mary­land De­part­ment of La­bor were just a few present, an­swer­ing any ques­tions the vet­er­ans had.

For the first time, a re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tion took part in the event. Pis­gah United Methodist Church lo­cated in Mar­bury in­ter­acted with vet­er­ans — lis­ten­ing to their sto­ries and pass­ing out food and a free handmade gift. The pas­tor of the church, Jeanne Parr, is a Viet­nam-era vet­eran and knows the im­por­tance of reach­ing out to fel­low vet­er­ans.

“As the pas­tor and a vet­eran, it’s kind of cool to be able to get in­volved. Be­ing here is not about en­larg­ing our church or get­ting more peo­ple in the pews, it re­ally is about show­ing [vet­er­ans] the love of God and our church’s Min­istry of Love pro­gram,” Parr said. “Our motto is ‘help­ing hands, warm hearts,’ so we have been pass­ing out a [handmade] sym­bol to re­mind them that some­one is al­ways lov­ing them and car­ing about them.”

Randy Spires, a Navy vet­eran and cur­rent USO vol­un­teer, said he en­joyed talk­ing with fel­low vet­er­ans about what the USO means to them. Spires was happy to learn his fa­vor­able opin­ion about the or­ga­ni­za­tion was not unique when vet­er­ans dis­cussed their ex­pe­ri­ences with him — es­pe­cially when many of the vet­er­ans were trav­el­ing and able to go to the USO sta­tions in air­ports.

“[Talk­ing with vet­er­ans] here is a way to give some­thing back. You know, I know what the USO meant to me when I was there and to be able to do this, if you want to call it pay it for­ward and ac­tu­ally have that in­ter­ac­tion with the peo­ple,” Spires said. “It’s just re­ward­ing to do that.”

An­drew Chism Jr., a 23year vet­eran of the Air Force as an air­craft tech­ni­cian, at­tended the La Plata Stand Down af­ter he had missed two oth­ers in North Carolina and Delaware. Chism, re­tired since 2011, likes to at­tend stand down events be­cause of the in­for­ma­tion he learns and the con­nec­tions he makes with var­i­ous com­pa­nies and or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“I talked to real es­tate com­pa­nies and Dis­abled Vet­er­ans of Amer­ica. What I was try­ing to do was make sure I cov­ered all of my bases,” Chism said. “I am just mak­ing sure that when I came through here that I am mak­ing con­tacts in case I needed to talk to any­body later on with prob­lems. I most def­i­nitely found to­day to be help­ful. In fact, that’s why I was talk­ing to my friend who just re­tired last week to come out here. This is the ideal place for him to get his [VA] claims to­gether.”

Ge­orge Haw­ley, event or­ga­nizer and vet­eran rep­re­sen­ta­tive for South­ern Mary­land, was pleased with the amount of peo­ple who came to the stand down. How­ever, with last year’s stand down serv­ing ap­prox­i­mately 100 peo­ple, he was hop­ing for a larger crowd. None­the­less, the vet­er­ans who did at­tend the event were able to file im­por­tant claims with the VA — some­thing Haw­ley said is the most im­por­tant thing at stand downs.

“A lot of them were ex­tremely pleased as far as ini­ti­at­ing a claims process. Some of the fam­ily mem­bers brought info in for their par­ents and got claims started for them,” Haw­ley said. “Claims are al­ways a big thing be­cause peo­ple have no idea where to turn or how to get it started.”

Haw­ley also said vet­er­ans weren’t the only one who ben­e­fited from the event. Some ven­dors have also col­lab­o­rated as a re­sult of the stand down and plan to pur­sue projects with one an­other.

To boost at­ten­dance at next year’s stand down event, Haw­ley hopes to add more ven­dors. Re­gard­less of num­bers, Hin­dle is just happy to help his fel­low vet­er­ans in his own com­mu­nity.

“This stand down is a start­ing point — es­pe­cially to get some of the med­i­cal is­sues taken care of. Plus, it’s close here at home. The vet­er­ans don’t have to go up to D.C. or Bal­ti­more or some place like that,” Hin­dle said. “My wish for all th­ese guys is com­ing true — to get what they de­serve. It means a lot.”

STAFF PHOTO BY HAN­NAH TROYER

A vet­eran talks with mem­bers of the Pis­gah United Methodist Church. The group, part of the church’s Min­istry of Love, was the first re­li­gious group to be a ven­dor at the La Plata Stand Down April 9.

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