By Scott Prater
. As he struggled to make ends meet during the past year, that connection became even more important.
His solution revealed itself just a few minutes after he walked into the 13th Annual Stand Down for Homeless Veterans Oct. 13. at the City Auditorium.
“I’m pretty sure I got back into the loop today,” Montgomery said as he toured the auditorium along with Navy Reservist, Petty Officer 1st Class Doug Correll, who escorted veterans throughout the auditorium. “I felt shunned for a long time. I didn’t know if it was because I’m a Vietnam veteran or what, but I found some resources here. The people here showed me a lot of courtesy.”
More than 120 veterans took advantage of the stand down, loading up with winter coats, clothing, boots, toiletries, flu shots and haircuts.
But the event, sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs, had a bigger mission in mind: to help veterans obtain assistance of a more permanent variety.
Montgomery reconnected with organizations that can help him obtain the services for which he is eligible. Other veterans were able to contact job-placement services, fill out applications to receive food stamps, find medical benefits and receive mental health and dental referrals.
Active-duty Airmen and civilian volunteers from Schriever played a key role during the event, providing a warm greeting, a friendly smile and some essential guidance to help veterans navigate the services available throughout the auditorium.
Correll, an acquisition manager for the 50th Space Wing program management division, said it was his job to help the veterans who came through the door get the assistance they needed, from whatever organization could help them.
“I escorted one gentleman who needed information from the social services organizations, from the VA,” Correll said. “He got a bus pass, a hot meal and some tips on possible jobs. He even put on a new winter coat. Basically, he left here with the feeling that the system is not forsaking vets. He left with hope.”
Tech. Sgt. Danielle Gangadeen, 50th Space Communications Squadron, was one of an estimated 50 Schriever volunteers at the event. She signed up to be an escort because she wanted to give back to the veteran community.
“They’ve served their time and we need to show them that we care about and appreciate them,” Gangadeen said. “I escorted two veterans at the same time. They wanted to stay together throughout the process and we were able to connect on a military level. They shared their experiences and I told them a little about myself. They loved all the different stations.”
Her veterans, Roger and Doc, walked through the front door wearing ragged, torn and flimsy tennis shoes.
“Doc put on the new boots and was so happy with them that he wore them through the rest of the tour,” Gangadeen said. “This event provides a wake up call. I met veterans today who have been to Iraq, and have seen their friends die. They’ve experienced it all and now they need basic winter supplies. I just wish I could do more.”
The EL Paso County Homeless Veterans Coalition estimates that nearly 500 veterans are homeless in the Pikes Peak Region, while many more are living impoverished.
Anyone interested in volunteering for next year’s VA stand down should stay tuned to the base bulletin board for announcements. In the mean time, Schriever volunteers also serve one weekend day per month at the Marian House soup kitchen, downtown. To volunteer with this team call Jeff Graham at 567-7716.