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Stand Down offers variety of services to veterans

May. 23, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The 600 block of 9th Street was a busy place Wednesday morning as the Homeless Veterans Resource Center hosted its annual Stand Down to show appreciation for veterans and highlight the vendors who provide services for them.

About 40 vendors were on hand to help veterans with health screenings and let them know about the resources available to help with post traumatic stress, housing, finances and other matters. About 100 veterans were expected to attend, and all were offered free haircuts and lunch.

Every veteran sacrifices something to go into the military, said LeeAnn Bills, VA homeless program coordinator for the Huntington VA Medical Center. When their military service ends, they face any number of challenges, and anything that can be done to help them be more successful after their re-entry into their communities is a much-needed service, she said.

Each year, the center honors a special person as part of the event, and this year's honoree was 5-year-old Van Vass, who organized a drive to help veterans in lieu of asking for gifts on his fifth birthday. With help from his parents, Trey and Jaime Vass of Huntington, the pre-K student at Meadows Elementary asked for help from his friends and collected items such as nail clippers, alarm clocks and more for the Homeless Veterans Resource Center. His family also donated furniture and other items.

"We need to honor him and teach all our little kids about how important our veterans are and to honor them as well," Bills said.

David Mullins, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, was touched by the boy's efforts.

"Things surprise me sometimes -- the way people feel about us," he said.

The center is open weekdays at 624 9th St. to offer services for veterans.