Soldiers often fight not out of hatred for what’s in front of them, but because of the love for what they left behind. Upon their return from warzones, veterans may find that their needs for happiness and survival aren’t always met.
In response to this, “Stand Down,” a long-standing initiative, recently celebrated its 39th occurrence just before Thanksgiving at the Freeport Armory.
At the annual event this year on Nov. 21, hundreds of veterans were provided with essential items such as food, shoes, clothes, and personal care items.
“I want to express my sincere thanks to the Nassau County Veterans Association for coordinating the fall Veterans Stand Down at the Freeport Armory this past Tuesday,” Kennedy said. “I also want to thank all the vendors that donated winter jackets, gloves, pillows, turkeys, hams, and assorted foods to all my fellow veterans.”
The effort was orchestrated by a dedicated team of veteran support groups, with Freeport village mayor Robert Kennedy, a U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, actively participating in the distribution alongside Nassau County’s Veterans Services Director Ralph Esposito and his team.
“As a US Navy veteran myself, I was impressed to see the support offered to hundreds of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Coast Guard veterans at the armory,” Kennedy said. “I look forward to working with Nassau County for continued Stand Down events to be held at the Freeport Armory in the future.”
During times of war, fatigued and injured fighting forces in need of rest and recuperation were withdrawn from the battlefields to a location of peace and protection known as a “stand down.” Troops were able to take care of their personal health, acquire clean uniforms, eat warm meals, receive medical assistance, write and receive letters, and enjoy the company of others in a safe setting at secure base camp sites.
Today, the term “stand down” refers to a grassroots, neighborhood-based intervention program created to aid veterans by connecting them with available neighborhood resources.
Kennedy acknowledged the pivotal role played by Paul Vista, Esposito’s deputy at the Veterans Services Agency, in bringing the initiative to fruition.
Kennedy took a moment at the event to extend thanks not only to his fellow Navy veterans but to those who served in the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard. He stressed the need for improved medical and housing support for veterans injured during military service.
That day, veterans formed a drive-through queue at the armory, where they received goods organized by category as they progressed through the line. Volunteers, including those from various veterans’ organizations, played a crucial role in sifting through bags and distributing items, ranging from clothes to Thanksgiving pies and turkeys.
The drive-thru event provided veterans a range of necessities totaling around $500 which includes clothing, toiletries, gift cards and food.
However, the support goes beyond physical supplies. The Nassau County’s Veterans Services offer ongoing services aimed at assisting veterans in the long term, including help with government programs to reduce senior citizen care costs.
Esposito and Vista work tirelessly throughout the year, helping veterans access federal, state, and local benefits. Their services encompass housing, educational assistance, and potential employment opportunities for any veteran in need.
The county’s Veterans Services Office, situated in Building Q at 2201 Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow, operates a daily marketplace where former military members can obtain a week’s worth of food and other necessities. It’s open from 9 a.m. to noon.
Esposito urged veterans not to hesitate in seeking help, emphasizing the importance of the Nassau County’s Veterans Services department.
“If you need help, stand down and come to us and ask for help,” Esposito said. “Don’t try and do everything yourself. We’re here to help you stand down and get what you need.”
An event like this underlines the significance of showing appreciation to those who served, providing the freedom to vote, practice religion, speak freely, and enjoy equal rights.
To learn more about veteran services in the county, call the Veterans Service Agency at (516) 572-6565.