It was a beautiful day at the Tule River Tribe Veterans Post 1987, and a great way to celebrate the service of veterans and first responders, all of whom were invited to the 4th annual Stand Down and Resource Fair hosted by Commander Stanley Santos.
Santos thanked all the veterans and everyone for attending the Stand Down, and said, “If we are helping just one person, we feel good. But the more veterans the better. I never forget that.”
Tule River Tribal Councilman Zachary Janoko spoke after prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance, as did Tribal administrator Brian Winningham, who said, “There are challenges faced at the Reservation, but the one thing we really get right in the community and the Tribal Government is honoring our Native American Veterans.”
Everyone was made to feel welcome at the Stand Down, and there were at least 25 vendors, offering everything from free hair-cuts to health care information. There were representatives from the American Red Cross, Family Healthcare, Eagle Mountain Casino, State of California Corrections and Rehabilitation and Assemblyman Devon Mathis office, along with many more.
The Central Valley Veterans (CVV), a non-profit organization out of Fresno, helped Santos and other veterans host the event. They distributed surplus military gear to veterans and their families, and helped prepare the delicious meal that everyone enjoyed.
The Stand Down was a tremendous success, with a lot of camaraderie and good fun. Johnson (Stretch) Havilah, a retired Navy SEAL, is a volunteer with CVV and said he’d been with them 17 years. He is their Chief Security Officer.
California Assemblyman Devon Mathis arrived at the post, and spent time with fellow veterans, inspected the water resources and health and human services on the reservation, and determined how the state of California can better help them. Mathis, a veteran himself, has supported the Tribal Stand Down and said he’s been there every year.
“It is just great that they’ve continued to do this,” said Mathis. “The Stand Down provides resources from health care, to hair cuts and employment. The goal is to have one stop shop for veterans to be able to come and get what they need.”
Santos said the Tule River Tribe Stand Down is the only Stand Down hosted on a reservation.
Besides a delicious meal and a good time together, the vendors provided a load of information for the veterans and first responders, like the Tule River Fire Department.
“This is a really good idea to recognize military service members from the different branches,” said Dave Nenna. “There are many veterans who don’t know that benefits and services are available to them irregardless of which era they served or their length of service. Some vets think they are lost or forgotten, and the Stand Down is just a small token of our appreciation.”
A bunch of veterans sat and ate lunch together inside the comfortable and inviting Veterans Post. They chatted and joked, and some looked at photographs and memorabilia.
Stanley Stinson, Sr., has been involved with CVV for 18 years, and said he’s been in charge of supplying veterans and their families with whatever they need.
“I deal with all the supplies,” said Stinson. “From military gear for Stand Downs throughout the year, to children’s clothing for veteran families. I’ve watched children from many families grow up, and it makes you feel so good. It’s so much fun to see them.
“The Stand Downs are really for homeless veterans. Some who don’t know these services exist for them. You know, some of these things, I didn’t realize how important they are. My family has always supported me completely when I’m working every day for the CVV. And prior to my retirement, my former company always gave me a week and a half of paid time every year when I worked at the CVV Stand Down in Fresno.”
Each vendor at the Stand Down received raffle tickets and gifts, as well as a $20 bonus cash for Eagle Mountain Casino. There were also gift baskets and other special gifts that veterans and other attendees received from the raffle.
“This is great. A good day, and family oriented,” said Ryan Garfield, Treasurer of Post 1987. “The Stand Down was another success, thanks to Commander Santos and the local community. We are glad to support veterans of all the services.”