By Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Oct. 18 was a change of pace for 1st Lt. Elizabeth De Jesus. It wasn’t a usual day of performing her duties as a 1st Space Operations Squadron certified trainer and payload system operator.
Instead, De Jesus helped homeless veterans during the 14th annual Veterans Stand Down at the City Auditorium in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“The Veterans Stand Down is really about helping our own,” De Jesus said. “The event connects homeless and unemployed military veterans in one central location; all in an effort to get them back on their feet.”
De Jesus is just one of the more than 140 Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors from Schriever and Peterson Air Force Bases, Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, U.S. Air Force Academy and Fort Carson who volunteered for the veterans stand down.
During the event, military volunteers helped setup and tear down the event and accompanied more than 160 homeless veterans through various stations to receive assistance from the onsite organizations. The homeless veterans received clothes, socks, shoes, bags, toiletries and blankets as well as a warm meal, dental care and a haircut.
Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs were available to provide information on health benefits and homeless veterans assistance services. Recourses such as Social Security Administration, employment and others also provided assistance during the event.
“This event is designed to provide assistance to our homeless veterans,” said Terry Fowler, a Vietnam veteran and president of the El Paso County Homeless Veterans Coalition, which organized the annual event. “This is important because these homeless veterans received information about benefits that they are authorized to get but they may not have known. Our mission is to get homeless veterans off the street and this event is one of the avenues by which we can help them.”
Fowler said the military volunteers are crucial in making sure the stand down is a huge success.
“The military volunteers enjoy talking to these veterans,” he said. “They assist them from one station to another. The veterans love talking to these military volunteers.”
One of these homeless veterans was Karl Mann. He said he appreciated all the military members who volunteered their time for him as well as other homeless veterans.
“They are extremely important; without them, this wouldn’t have happened,” Mann said.
Volunteering for the second time, De Jesus said it was a rewarding experience for her as well.
“It is a personal experience getting to know these veterans, what they encountered and what obstacles they are facing,” De Jesus said. “These veterans offer a unique outlook on life and the military.”
Maj. Matthew Lester, 22nd Space Operations Squadron, encouraged military members to give back to the local community, and volunteering at the stand down is one way to do it.
“This is important because we, for the most part, only live in these communities for a short time and we want to leave a lasting ‘positive’ impression on our community,” Lester said. “We should do our part to make the community better. It’s something we should embrace not only as military members but also as citizens of this great nation.”