‘Stand Down’ is a hit with veterans
There were a total of 275 people who entered the doors of Kent Freeman Arena Thursday in Detroit Lakes, as the first Stand Down for Veterans to be held in Becker County took place under its roof.
But not all those in attendance were service veterans. A total of 45 vendor booths were set up inside the arena, with each of them promoting a different service for veterans.
“The Stand Down is a one-stop shop,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Veterans’ Affairs Larry Shellito, who was on hand for the festivities. “All the providers (of veterans’ services) are here, in one place.”
Shellito is a retired major general of the U.S. Army and former adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard.
During a brief welcoming program Thursday morning, Shellito said, “To all my Vietnam veteran friends — welcome home.”
It was a direct reference to the fact that veterans of the Vietnam War have not always been greeted with kind words — and as the 50th anniversary of the start of the conflict nears, the importance of honoring those veterans appropriately is heightened.
Shellito said that his “orders” to the veterans present at Thursday’s event were to spread the message of the Stand Down to their friends and fellow veterans.
“There are over 200 of you here today,” he said. “I want to come back next year and see that number double.”
As he noted after the presentation, the purpose of the Stand Down is to help increase awareness among veterans of the services available to them.
“There’s a bad trait veterans have — to be quiet, reserved, take care of it themselves,” he said.
Though that might be seen as admirable in many situations, he added, it becomes problematic when even their own families don’t know what to do to help them.
“We want your families involved as much as possible,” Shellito said in his remarks to the crowd.
“Veterans in the state of Minnesota are valued and respected — we want to make sure they’re never forgotten.”
Also on hand for Thursday’s event was Paul Pedersen, outreach manager for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV).
He talked about the definition of the term “stand down,” noting that it had its origins in the Vietnam War, when troops were ordered to stand down from the front lines to a place of relative security and safety, in order to rest and rejuvenate.
Today the term “Stand Down” refers to a gathering where veterans can come to receive services and information in a “non-threatening, comfortable atmosphere,” Pedersen added.
“We are all here for the veterans,” he said.
In addition to access to various services, veterans were also given free “incentives” for attending such as army surplus clothing and supplies, a haircut and/or shave, cold weather gear and more.
Pedersen also gave high praise to all the people who were involved in organizing the event.
“You guys have no idea how many hands have touched this event, or how much sweat and time have been put into it,” Pedersen said in thanking all those who had helped to make Becker County’s first Stand Down a success.
“The support has been phenomenal,” said Becker County Veterans Service Officer Lauri Brooke. “We have over 200 people here, and there was a great vendor turnout.”
“The turnout very much met our expectations,” Pedersen added.
“I’m convinced that a lot of people came here today because it was the first time, and they were curious,” Shellito said. “I hope they found out it was a good deal, and that they’ll share the information and bring in more people next time.”
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes