Stand Down offers hand up to veterans

DOVER — The annual Delaware Veterans’ Stand Down, which seeks to connect veterans with a wide array of services while also attempting to answer all of their questions, drew nearly 1,200 attendees last year.

However, Liz Byers-Jiron, executive director of Delaware Veterans’ Stand Down, said that she will know the event is fulfilling its mission once those numbers of attendees finally begin to decrease.

The 10th annual Delaware Veterans’ Stand Down will take place on Friday, Sept. 21, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Schutte Park, located behind the Kraft Foods plant at 10 Electric Avenue in Dover.

“If we’re doing our job right our numbers will get smaller because our veterans will find the services and resources that they need,” Mrs. Byers-Jiron said. “We see veterans from all over the country. Although this is a one-day event we do this work 24/7 every day.

“The Veterans’ Stand Down event is extremely important. It’s one of the largest events we have in the state of Delaware for our veterans.”

Mrs. Byers-Jiron added, “Last year we saw just under 1,200 attendees. We had to relocate the event last year from the (Walter L. Fox) American Legion Post 2 to the Schutte Park location because of the growth in size.”

The Stand Down is one of the annual projects carried out by the Veterans Awareness Center Foundation in Greenwood, a 501c3 created by Mrs. Byers-Jiron along with her husband Bill Jiron, program manager, and their daughter Mindy, who serves as the executive assistant.

“You might say the Veterans’ Stand Downs are a major repository of information for all veterans,” said Bill Jiron, a 21-year veteran of the Air Force. “So, if they have a question about any of their benefits or any questions about anything they can get an answer that day.”

Last year more than 100 presenters provided basic services, information on benefits, clothing, housing, toiletry kits, a hot meal, barbers, dentists, a mobile medical van, flu shots, behavioral health, suicide prevention, legal advice and services from the motor vehicle department. The VA also provided information on available services.

Volunteers and providers meet with Liz Byers Jiron, center, at the Commission of Veterans Affairs in Dover in June to plan the 10th
Annual Veterans Stand Down.

Local musicians added an upbeat feel to the atmosphere and were very well received, according to Ms. Byers-Jiron.

This year’s event will feature much of the same, with van and bus transportation provided at seven different locations throughout the state, including Wilmington, Georgetown, Seaford, Harrington, Rehoboth Beach and Dover.

Retired Gen. Frank Vavala, Delaware’s former adjutant general, provided opening remarks last year and will return this year along with Dave Skocik of the Delaware Veterans Coalition.

The Veterans’ Stand Down’s mission has changed over recent years, according to Mrs. Byers-Jiron.

“Historically, the Stand Downs were noted for homeless veterans, but Delaware has done such a good job at housing our homeless veterans over the last two-and-a-half years that we have very few homeless veterans left any longer,” said Mrs. Byers-Jiron, who served with Naval Sea Systems Command for 38 years.

“So, we have now changed our mission statement to include all veterans. It is my personal opinion that if you give veterans what they need up front they won’t become at risk and they won’t become homeless.”

There is a huge demand for an event such as the Veterans’ Stand Down, considering there are more than 78,000 veterans who reside in the state.

Mrs. Byers-Jiron said when they first started holding the Stand Down 10 years ago there were about 25 veterans who attended. In the past couple of years, the attendance has topped 1,000 veterans and the service organizations that give assistance has grown in step with the event.

Larence Kirby, executive director of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, said the Veterans’ Stand Down provides a big help in matching veterans with assistance they might need, whether it be health services, employment assistance or even dental care.

“The Stand Down event is a gathering of veterans from throughout the state and there are various organizations present to mirror-up veterans with different organizations that may be able to help them,” Mr. Kirby said.

“There will be representatives from several different organizations at the event to talk to veterans, including Veterans’ Affairs, employment agencies, VA hospitals and a bunch of other different nonprofit organizations. This helps put veterans in touch with people who might be able to provide some assistance to them.”

The first Veterans’ Stand Down took place in San Diego, California, in 1988. The inaugural event was held for homeless veterans only and was modeled after the process followed as soldiers left combat situations.

At the first Stand Down event, soldiers were taken to a secure military base where they were provided with clean uniforms, received warm meals and were also given dental and medical care.

The event has since taken off and grown nationally and is now almost a decade-old in Delaware.

Mrs. Byers-Jiron’s said it’s a huge undertaking,

Her team of about 35 volunteers work for six months before each Veterans’ Stand Down. Contributors and volunteers from businesses, government, nonprofit organizations and others from across the state come together each year to help veterans in need of a friendly hand up.

“We encourage veterans to come out and avail themselves of what we have to offer and ask folks to spread the word,” said Mrs. Byers-Jiron. “They deserve no less for their dedicated service. We truly appreciate the efforts of Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen and his staff in facilitating this important event.”

For more information, display posters, or to contribute, offer goods or services or volunteer, call 302-349-4898, or email lbjnavcret@hotmail.com.

“The best way to describe it is just a chance to provide some assistance to veterans,” Mr. Kirby said. “Not all veterans have an easy road so this is an opportunity and that’s always a good thing.”

 

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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