By Bushra Mollick
A line of men and women – veterans who varied in areas of service – stood patiently in the heat as they waited to head into the American Legion Hall. Inside, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano hosted the bi-annual “Veterans Stand Down” event, dedicated to lending veterans a helping hand with mental, physical and social issues.
Veterans and volunteers were bound together by flyers and informational talk in the wooded, air-conditioned room. At one end of the large room, an American flag was hoisted behind a make-shift barber shop, as veterans were offered free haircuts to look their best. In another area, attendees learned about resume writing and job seeking.
Tables were set around the room, with various representatives adjacent to them. These volunteers were able to inform veterans of their service-related health benefits, help for food, clothes and housing and other resources intended to help them. Representatives present included Veterans Protected, the Red Cross and the New York Department of Labor.
“Our hometown heroes – those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today – deserve all of the services that we can provide to them,” the County Executive said.
Many veterans said they were more than pleased with the event. Sherman Free said “It’s an uplifting thing! Every little bit counts.” Free served in the Army from 1978 to 1996.
One woman waiting beside a table for a informational pamphlet wore a shirt that read, “Life inspires us.” As veterans who once served our nation, these inspiring men and women sought out help from the county – some adorned with the very awards they had won in service.
With dark skin and faded blue eyes, Margaret Johnson said she worked as a Home Health Aid from 1970 to 1991. She waded through the crowds, arm heavy with an American flag bag.
Ted Shuster, a member of the Jewish War Veterans of USA, said he researched military health issues such as Rheumatic Fever, during his service – from 1949 to 1951. He called today’s standdown, “A very important one, a very helpful one. It shows how generous veterans can be to other veterans in need.”
The County Executive hosts “Stand Downs” in the summer and winter in order to reach out to as many veterans as possible.