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Veterans receive help at ‘Stand Down’ event at American Legion

For Gene Berg, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, being able to sign up for the Agent Orange registry through the Veteran’s Administration gives him peace of mind.

“It helps me stay on top of any health concerns I may have down the road,” he said.

Berg, a volunteer at the Veteran’s Resource Center, is this year’s coordinator of Veteran’s Stand Down, an event aimed at assisting veterans as they return to civilian life and making them aware of the VA benefits to which they are entitled.

“Many are eligible for benefits but they’re not aware of that when they leave the military,” Berg said. “When you get out of the military, you’re just eager to get on with your life and you kind of think you’re already enrolled (in the Veteran’s Administration), but it isn’t automatic.”

The Whidbey Island Stand Down is 9 a.m to 5 p.m. today, Aug. 3 at the American Legion Post No. 141 in Bayview. All area veterans and their families are welcome to attend this event.

The event this year emphasizes families of veterans, homeless veterans and senior veterans who have never felt the need to enroll, but are now advancing in age and are unaware of the advantages of the enrollment.

“If we can help veterans be aware of their benefits, that’s a good thing,” Berg said.

Veterans “Stand Down” is a community-based activity that was started in 1988 in response to the overwhelming number of underserved veterans in America. Since then, the program has been widely replicated nationwide.

Today, more than 200 Stand Downs take place across the country every year.

Started for veterans, by veterans, the event is designed to help servicemen and women return to a civilian lifestyle after their term of military service is completed. Collaborating community organizations assist in housing, solving legal issues, finding employment opportunities, accessing health services and benefits, enrollment in VA systems and helping them reconnect with their communities.

“This special event is designed to demonstrate support and assistance to our magnificent veterans, regardless of their age or era of service,” said Ret. Col. Greg Stone, the president of the Veteran’s Resource Center board of directors.

“We also anticipate representation from community and civic leaders highlighting their support to our amazing veterans.”

Right on Highway 525, the event is accessible via free Island County Transit and will have free food, coffee and haircuts.

The event is sponsored and supported by a number of area organizations including the Goose Community Grocer, Payless Foods and Whidbey Island Coffee.

The event is primarily funded by a fundraising concert each year hosted by Trinity Lutheran Church and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, who are big supporters of the event.

“Having the funds to run a program like this takes a lot of stress off a guy like me,” Berg said.

There will be information supporting dependent and family services, light medical screenings, VA enrollment and benefit counselors, employment and financial support representatives, VA mental health services, PTSD/TBI counseling, the Opportunity Council, Island County Veterans Services, American Legion representatives, VetCorps representatives, Everett Veterans Center and VA home loans information.

For more information, email to gaberg678@gmail.com or call 443-928-2689.

 

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