If You Go ...
Serving Our Vets at Home (SOVAH) Veterans' Stand-Down.
Saturday, Sept. 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dallas City Park.
An opportunity for veterans to find assistance in a safe and neutral environment. The event will help connect vets with organizations offering shelter, food, clothing, and health care, as well as help accessing U.S. Veterans' Administration, Social Security and other available benefits.
Wayne Crowder, 503-363-4238.
DALLAS -- Two types of veterans return home from duty.
First, there are those who are able to settle back into life, who go to college and start careers and families.
Then, there are those who suffer from combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Those who don't seek treatment or can't find the help they need, find their own cures, often drugs or alcohol. Others reject living in society completely.
The Salem-based veterans assistance group Serving Our Vets at Home (SOVAH) will try to reach the vets who have chosen homelessness from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, in Dallas City Park near the Levens Street entrance. Called Veterans' Stand-Down, the event offers an opportunity for vets to find assistance in a safe and neutral environment.
Organizers will dedicate the area's first stand-down in the memory of Spc. Taylor Marks.
Polk County Commissioner Tom Ritchey will be at the stand-down to announce the dedication to Marks, a Monmouth resident and Central High School graduate who was killed Aug. 28 by a roadside bomb while riding in a convoy near Rashid, Iraq. Marks had been deployed with the National Guard's 41st Special Troops Battalion.
SOVAH Executive Director Bill Adams says it's no easy task helping homeless vets, mainly because they are good at disappearing. He discovered that out when he and Wayne Crowder, SOVAH's event coordinator, worked in the Falls City area.
After spending time in the community, the pair were meeting with 40 to 50 vets. Adams suspects the situation is the same in other communities.
SOVAH hopes to help 400 vets at Saturday's stand-down -- a term which originally meant taking a soldier off the front lines and to a safe place to rest and recuperate after combat. Crowder said the event will offer something similar in connecting vets with organizations offering shelter, food, clothing, and health care, as well as help accessing U.S. Veterans' Administration, Social Security and other available benefits.
SOVAH chose Dallas because Crowder and Adams believe the city to be in the middle of other communities with populations of homeless vets. Estimating the need in the area is tricky, however, considering who SOVAH is trying to help.
"It's really difficult because these folks are not counted," Adams said. "These guys come back and literally disappear."
They may have left behind normal life, but Adams said they can't run from their PTSD-fueled nightmares. They try to find escape in substances, sometimes to the point they can't keep a job. Furthermore, Adams said vets avoid what they see as the slow bureaucracy of the VA. Rather than asking vets to seek help, SOVAH decided to go to them.
"We try to take the intermediary position -- we help them where they are," Adams said. "It's really a simple thing to do."
Simple, but not easy. It takes time and persistence to convince world-wary vets that there really is someone on their side. The stand-down is meant to gather those working for vets in one place, with a dozen or more organizations, along with volunteers who are veterans ready to work with vets on the spot. Families of vets also are welcome at the stand-down, he said.
Crowder, a Vietnam veteran, knows recovery is possible. He struggled with PTSD and drug and alcohol addiction. After losing his home, he finally took the help offered him. His battle with PTSD is ongoing, but no longer debilitating.
Crowder hopes vets who seek help at the stand-down eventually will help others.
"I see it as perpetual motion," Crowder said. "It just keeps going."
SOVAH is looking for volunteers to help set up, tear down or help out during the stand-down as well as donations to cover insurance costs. For more information or to volunteer, contact Wayne Crowder at 503-363-4238.