By Jo Ann Van Wyk, American Legion Auxiliary County Secretary
American Legion Auxiliary units in Appanoose County answered a call to service for homeless veterans in Des Moines. An event called Stand Down was held in Des Moines near the capital on Sept. 9-11.
The term "Stand Down" was used during the Vietnam War. It was a time for the soldiers to return to base camp, get off the front lines, renew their spirit, take showers, change into dry socks, get a hot meal, write letters home and generally clean the war off of them for a few days. The Stand Down in Des Moines was very similar.
This three day event allowed the homeless veterans to get fresh clothing, canned goods to take with them, a hot meal to enjoy (such as lasagna), take showers, get haircuts, clean socks and underwear, as well as warm coats and sweatshirts for winter. There also were counselors, doctors, dentists and Iowa Workforce Development tents available to help with any issues that have developed for them.
Moravia and Centerville Auxiliary Units were contacted for help and answered the call to service in abundance. They were able, with short notice, to collect an entire carload of new and used necessary items for distribution. Items donated were new socks, stocking hats, gloves, toothbrushes and paste, lotion, chap sticks, hooded sweatshirts and canned food that could be easily warmed over a bonfire, plus several feminine hygiene products. Used items included jeans, sweatshirts, sweaters, scarves, sleeping bags, blankets and winter coats.
The event was quite spectacular as an area of grass was transformed into a military looking camp, including military tents set up and cots for a sleeping area. All veterans were directed to an area to speak with social workers. They received all new items and then allowed
to go through all the used items. Most left with a black leaf bag full of clothing to help them deal with the harsh Iowa winters and survive the hard life on the street.
Some were placed in shelters and helped with employment.
Two years ago the Stand Down event served a total of 500 men and women. Last year it grew to 1,500. This year the event gave out 400 military issued backpacks full of items in three hours.
This is for those men and women that have served our country and are now homeless and living in homeless camps or shelters in the Des Moines area.
The Stand Down event provides a safe place where there is no judgment, just help and hope for these men and women that continue to fight their fight in another war. The war of survival.