SAN JOSE — Kim Yee made the rounds of dozens of cubicles arrange on the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Saturday morning, accumulating issues to assist make his day-to-day life somewhat simpler: a bag of groceries, paperwork to safe a housing voucher, authorized help with the DMV and a pair of army fatigues specifically designed to be worn whereas in a wheelchair.
After enlisting within the army as a 15-year-old throughout the Vietnam Warfare in 1967, Yee educated and served abroad as an Military Ranger for greater than twenty years, earlier than a fight damage despatched him house. However life stateside hasn’t all the time been easy crusing for the now 72-year-old, who has spent the previous few weeks sofa browsing after not too long ago dropping the roof over his head.
Greater than 50 distributors who arrange store at a particular “Veterans Stand Down” had been prepared to assist. The occasion was organized to ease the troubles that Lee and plenty of different veterans typically face within the months, years and a long time after their army service has ended. Dozens of volunteers supplied medical and dental care, housing assets, psychological well being assets, haircuts and a number of different companies — all freed from cost.
Hosted for the primary time by the county’s Workplace of Veterans Providers, volunteers from organizations like Starvation at Dwelling, LifeMoves and the Restoration Café joined authorities staff to attach former service members with the varied instruments they should thrive.
“It offers me hope to know there’s folks on the market who look after us and are prepared to exit of their approach to assist preserve our thoughts and physique energized,” Yee mentioned, wiping away tears. “It’s an important feeling to have all of these items accessible to us right here.”
Apart from a newly swollen cheek after getting an contaminated tooth extracted solely 20 minutes prior, he was crammed with gratitude for all of the companies he obtained in return for his army service.
“We watched out for one another’s backs on the market (abroad), it doesn’t matter what occurred; that’s the identical factor that’s occurring right here,” Yee mentioned. “To see all of us who served — from all of the branches — come out, it’s like one massive glad household.”
Whereas comparable occasions had been held by native American Legion posts prior to now, this was the county’s first try and resurrect the collaborative effort.
Steve Fondacaro, a veteran and interim director of the county’s Workplace of Veterans Providers, mentioned that whereas there’s a basic feeling of embarrassment from veterans, occasions like “Stand Down” assist present them the identical type of selfless service they poured into the army.
“These advantages are issues they’ve already earned,” Fondacaro mentioned. “The one factor standing between them is the forms — all they want is anyone to assist them work by means of all that. We’re the way-finders and guides.”
Fondacaro served three a long time within the Military. He mentioned the shock of coming again to civilian life is without doubt one of the main causes veterans have such a tough time adjusting.
“It’s like I went to a different planet and got here again to a special Earth — culturally and politically, it’s a really international place,” he mentioned. “So if you see an offended veteran, that’s as a result of they’re saying, ‘I gave every thing, so why can’t I get something now?’ Now, a groundswell of help to (assist make that simpler) is all proper right here.”
Thomas Barnes, 59, mentioned he heard about “Stand Down” by means of phrase of mouth from fellow vets.
Whereas he not too long ago secured housing in San Jose particularly reserved for veterans, he had beforehand been homeless — a symptom he mentioned comes with the territory of coping with the PTSD and power obstructive pulmonary illness he was recognized with after two stints within the Military and one within the Marine Corps.
Whereas life hasn’t all the time been simple for Barnes, who not too long ago moved to California after a long time residing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he’s grateful for the group he’s discovered right here that’s involved about his nicely being — proven by means of acts so simple as a free haircut.
“The nation hasn’t forgotten about us veterans, and so they wish to guarantee that we’re okay and may get a serving to hand in life,” Barnes mentioned. “I thank God for my fellow Americans who care and pave a highway for us to be okay.”