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Stand Down provides free services, helps veterans connect

By Andrea Olson, KECI Reporter, aolson@keci.com
Published On: Jun 28 2014 06:02:57 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Low wages, unemployment and poverty affect our veterans at a much higher rate than the general population.

Government statistics show that the veteran unemployment rate is at 9% while the national rate hovers around 7%.

13% of the adult homeless population is veterans and 1.4 million veterans are at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of proper support, and dismal living conditions.

More than 350 Montana vets lined up outside the armory in Missoula on Saturday for a Veteran's Stand Down.

The event's primary goal is to help those vets who are homeless or at risk of homelessness but that's far from the only purpose.

Gary Mccann traveled 80 miles on Saturday to get to Veterans Stand Down in Missoula.

He says the free services, gear and information's worth it.

“I've gotten so much information, I mean it's going to help," said Mccann.

Mccann says his hope is to enroll in an adult studies program. He wants to study business.

"I want to start my own business and I want to learn what it takes to get going again," said Mccann.

This isn’t any kind of business but one that's inspired through his own disability.

"A thrift store that covers all disabilities, not just one," said Mccann.

Family Assistance Center Specialist with the Montana National Guard Erin Helm says the stand down isn't just about providing service, it's also a place for companionship.

"It’s one of the big elements of joining community forces, is lessen the isolation for our service members, who have been deployed and come back," said Helm.

Richard Blythe, another veteran, told NBC Montana he was afraid to come out but did it because of doctor's orders. He struggles with PTSD.

"Us older guys tend to isolate a bit and we don't like crowds and we don't like a lot of things," said Blythe.

For Blythe, he liked the fact that he could find other people just like him.

"I'm not the only one and that's kind of nice to know," said Blythe.

"They still care about veterans, even us older vets," said Mccann.

NBC Montana was told that the event brought in 48,000 pounds of equipment. They say if there are leftovers, they'll have another event in a couple of months.

Click here for more information to learn more about Joint Community Forces.