7th Annual Veterans Stand Down
On October 4th, Lieutenant Commander Hester started our program by recalling finding a homeless veteran frozen to death in the streets of Washington DC in 1989. In his pocket he found a hand-written tribute to the veterans which he read to us titled “Lest We Forget”, commencing:
"They paid the ultimate price then they handed us the torch of freedom to carry on.
Yes, let us mourn their passing and recognize those still present."
He then told us the story of the “worst day” of his life, on January 4, 1968. Departing from an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin, heavily laden with bombs as well as cameras, they headed into North Vietnam. After locating and bombing their targets – Surface to Air Missile sites – they headed down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. They heard over the radio the voice of a young Second Lieutenant who was part of a stranded reconnaissance group, asking for help. Making a pass, they were hit with ground fire, the hydraulics went out and the plane went down in a rice paddy, catching fire, with the wings and tail coming off. Looking up out of the water he saw 25-30 Vietcong advancing on them. They were worried about the fact that they had the codes for their bombing sites. But to their defense, outnumbered three to one, came twelve young Marines firing from their hips. He witnessed these young Marines show incredible heroism, as they were gunned down. The young Marine pulling him from the rice paddy was killed and as he died apologized for not being able to save him. Nine of the twelve Marines perished, whilekilling 27 of the enemy. Helicopters rescued them, and he ended up in a hospital in Philadelphia.
The same ilk of these 12 Marines are living homeless on the streets today. Some have had a hard time making it “home”.
He went on to announce the upcoming 7th Veterans Stand Down in North County, at Green Hope Ranch, Vista, next January. They will host 350 homeless veterans. Veterans’ Affairs will be there, and the Navy will do a fly over. Veterans will be provided with showers, clothing and hygiene kits, benefits counseling and mental health counseling, among other services.
He would greatly appreciate any help that can be donated. They are a 501(c)(3) organization. Although Veteran Stand Downs are held once a year, this is the first in North County.
There are 100 veterans living in every square mile of San Diego County. We have the highest concentration of veterans in the US, and the highest concentration of homeless veterans. Please reach out and help a veteran through the organizations dedicated to their needs.