The mission is to support retired military personnel with a range of services and resources and according to Ralph Esposito, director of the county Veterans Agency — “the event is a mission to show love for Nassau County’s veterans.”
“Our veterans deserve the best,” Esposito. “They served our country by giving their best and it’s our turn to provide them with the absolute best we can.”
Hundreds of veterans from all branches of the U.S. military attended the winter Veteran Stand Down to consult with agency representatives. Others came for the food. Still others waited for a complimentary haircut provided by students from Hempstead’s Barber and Beauty Institute of New York and others sat down for a warm Thanksgiving meal with all of the trimmings — turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes and full table of pies and cookies.
The biggest issue that came up in conversations, during this Stand Down, according to Esposito was housing. Esposito said that more veterans are in Nassau County are having issues in keeping stable housing or dealing with homelessness. The housing issue, he said, is something he and his colleagues are going to have to figure out how to address.
“Everyone needs something,” Dolores Scalfani a paralegal with Nassau Suffolk Law Services. “But especially veterans on Long Island are in need of services.”
Navy veteran and Hempstead resident Gwendolyn Watson proudly share it was her birthday and though she wouldn’t share her age she admitted that attending the event gave her an opportunity to tap into services she couldn’t afford without the generosity of the vendors and volunteers.
According to Esposito, over 400 veterans participated in the Stand Down before noon at 1:30 p.m. veterans were still walking through the front door lining up for services.