Lawrence County's veterans and service members were invited to experience some "rest and relaxation" Friday at the seventh annual "Stand-Down."
"Stand Down" was a term used during the Vietnam War to describe a safe place where battle weary soldiers could get food, medical care and fellowship to renew their spirit according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. It has been used to describe the events that provide services for veterans and other services members, and anyone else who wants to attend.
The event was held from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Frank Avenue Armory as representatives of a variety of services and agencies made themselves available. There was a special emphasis on providing help to veterans who are homeless, with a distribution of free military surplus items from the Department of Defense. A free lunch was also served to about 300 people who attended.
Inside the armory building, hundreds of attendees browsed services ranging from the county veterans office to blood pressure screenings to sign-ups for various services. There was even a Red Cross comfort dog available to just sit and hang out with anyone wanting to experience her calming influence.
Joan Heverly of the Red Cross said they brought "Indi" there to make a connection with veterans.
"Veterans love dogs," she noted, explaining that they lower people's stress levels. "Dogs will respond differently to different people," she said, adding that the canines seem to know which people could benefit from a nuzzle or a furry paw.
"Some people need dogs and the dogs seem to recognize that," she said.
Missy Russell of Lawrence County Community Action Partnership was chairperson of the event and said it couldn't have happened without many vendors and volunteers who donated their time and services.
She said the event particularly aims at ending the military veteran "homeless demographic." To that end, van transport was available to transport veterans from the City Rescue Mission and the Town Mall. Once there they had the opportunity to connect with services, as well meet physical needs such as military surplus sleeping bags and other goods made available from the Department of Defense.
Russell said that the event is not limited to veterans and about half of those attending are usually veterans or service members.
She said that one great help to funding the event was a motorcycle bike run that took place Sunday at Cascade Park and was sponsored by LCCAP and the New Castle Police Department. All the money raised was donated to the Stand Down project.
A short ceremony kicked off the Stand Down, with County Controller Dave Gettings singing the "Star Spangled Banner" and giving the invocation. State Rep. Chris Sainato and Russell gave brief remarks and Joy Croach of LCCAP sang "God Bless America." Music was provided by the Lawrence County Community Band.
Outside, those attending could browse information available from Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veteran Affairs which brought its mobile veterans outreach van and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs which brought a mobile Vet Center.