Canopies fell, belongings packed and handshakes shared Thursday morning as military veterans wrapped the final day of the 12th annual North Bay Stand Down at the Dixon May Fair grounds.For the past three days, 260 veterans in need got aid at the event, from a hot meal to a health checkup to information on veterans benefits and myriad treatment programs to how to apply for other types of assistance.
“It’s probably the best Stand Down we’ve ever had,” said Jeff Jewell, Sacramento Vet Center director and Stand Down organizer. “We’ve had quite a few people who were inspirational.”
So many volunteers came together to provide outreach, Jewell said, that the teamwork made the event a near-seamless undertaking. For example, when transportation became an issue due to the federal shutdown, Vacaville’s City Coach and Mission Solano in Fairfield extended a helping hand. Funding issues, meanwhile, were eased by an $8,000 loan from Solano County and a $4,000 donation from American Legion Post 208.
“Everybody just seemed to be working together. Everybody’s just calm,” he said. “Everybody’s coming up to me and saying they want to pay it forward. I tell them to go out and give to a veteran in need because it’s the right thing to do.”
Daniel E. Helix, director of men’s ministries and services with Richmond-based Bay Area Rescue Mission, also called the event a success.
“North Bay Stand Down is probably one of the kindest stand downs in the country,” he said. “They provide resources … with grace.”
Helix brought 35 chaplains to the Stand Down to aid in lifting spirits and provide “help with anything.” His team leaves with a handful of veterans, who will receive aid from his rescue mission (bayarearescue.org).
For Joni and Nathan Bragg of Sacramento, the Stand Down was an invaluable resource as well as an opportunity to give back.
“I always tell them, ‘I don’t need a hand out, I need a hand up,’ ” explained Nathan, a former Vacaville resident and an Army veteran who served in a K-9 Unit and as a military police officer. “It (the event) gives you an opportunity to rectify a lot of things that have gotten away — DMV, dental, haircuts. I got some dental done, got my vision done.”
The camaraderie among participants is amazing as well, he continued. He met veterans from the Vietnam War — and even World War II. Everyone has a story to share, he said, and it’s always fascinating. Meanwhile, he pointed out, while accepting resources, he’s also provided some.
His contribution: his 4-year-old service dog, a miniature English bulldog named Mumzie.
“She’s a mascot around here,” said Joni, as participants and volunteers alike stopped by to pet the caramel-colored pup, who reacts when a seizure’s about to happen and also alerts on other illnesses.
“She’s a lifesaver,” Nathan added. “I take her to convalescent homes and nursing homes. … The most grizzled veterans pet her.”