Walking into Long Beach Veterans Memorial Stadium for Stand Down '91 (June 21 to 23) I did not know what to expect. Stand Down is a military term for providing a refuge from battle for the combatants. The Long Beach Stand Down was designed to provide a temporary sanctuary for those veterans who have the misfortune of residing on the streets; this event offered a brief respite for these warriors who must contend with the daily elements of being without a permanent home.
If I had any anticipations about Stand Down, they were that I would encounter a less than desirable population group of our society--an unfair stereotype that I am ashamed to have had. What I did not anticipate was to be as profoundly affected as I was. I was truly moved.
At Stand Down I met a group of individuals who were articulate, intelligent, sincere human beings. Stand Down truly brought out the spirit in these people. Some of the services available at Stand Down included being given shelter on a cot in a tent. Solid (and tasty) meals were served. Clothing was issued with old clothing being laundered. Haircuts were provided, if desired. Medical, optical and dental examinations were part of the program; this included foot care, optical dispensing, and evaluation and referral for treatment of medical crises. Psychological counseling was integral with workshops on substance abuse, Agent Orange, stress reduction and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Legal advice was available, as were legal proceedings to address outstanding warrants and/or convictions. Through the combination of these comprehensive services and this break from the daily war of life on the streets, the collective morale of these individuals was elevated.