The Stand Down at the Porterville Memorial Building was packed with organizations and vendors offering services for healthcare, education, housing, rehabilitation, employment services, and much more to the many veterans who attended on Thursday, October 31.
Quite a few of the vendors were dressed in costume, because it was also Halloween.
Navy veteran Connie Wilson, from Madison, GA., was at the Stand Down and took advantage of some of the services offered by The Central Valley Veterans (CVV), a non-profit organization out of Fresno, who distributed surplus military gear to veterans and their families. Her ex-husband is also a veteran, and she receives medical help for their grown son.
Sarah Monroe of the American Red Cross and CVV gave out gear bags, sleeping bags, boots, socks, long sleeved shirts, and comfort kits to the veterans. She said, “The American Red Cross provides comfort and supports our military families and veterans,” as she gave a comfort kit to Wilson.
A young student from Granite Hills High School was helping distribute bags from the food pantry to veterans, and she said, “It’s an honor handing out fruits and vegetables to veterans, and helping them today.”
Florence Zepeda, the wife of Edward Zepeda who works with the Fresno Veterans Hospital said approvingly, “This is a highly organized Stand Down and there are a lot of good people offering services to the veterans.”
The large hall was filled with tables from one end to the other, with some round tables in the back where veterans and their families were seated, eating hot dogs, conversing, or just relaxing and having a good time. The camaraderie was evident, and the whole gathering a great success.
Juan Vazquez, Jr. from the EDD Veterans Program in Porterville was the host of the Stand Down and was in charge of the raffle throughout the morning and lunchtime, when over 100 raffle prizes were awarded to veterans and their families.
Don Dowling, Commander, of American Legion Post 20, welcomed everyone to the Stand Down, and the Porterville Military Academy cadets presented the colors, after which the national anthem was played.
Clayton Ditiz, Air National Guard and Fresno Calvet Chaplin gave the invocation.
After the invocation a host of official dignitaries from local and state governmental offices spoke.
They were Vice Mayor Monte Reyes from the City of Porterville, California Assemblyman Devon Mathis, Monica Martin from the office of Congressman Kevin McCarthy, Jacob Villagomez, from the office of California Senator Melissa Hurtado, and Weston Anderson from the office of California Senator Shannon Grove.
“The Porterville Veterans Stand Down is such a great event to provide assistance and resources the brave individuals who fought for the United States. They deserve all the support we can provide,” said Tara Adams, from Assemblyman Devon Mathis office.
Navy veteran Alysa Alvarez from Washington state said the Stand Down was a huge benefit for Porterville because people often don’t know the services that are provided.
Carlos Pizano, is a veteran from the Air Force, and is in a work study program provided by the VA at College of the Sequoias. (COS)
He was active duty for six years and transferred to the Air Force Reserves. He served in New Mexico, Nevada, and Korea, as a munitions systems inspector. And as a reservist, he is a firefighter. This is his second time at the Stand Down. “This is a great event,” he said. “It brings all these different services, organizations, and employers to one focal point, so veterans can receive the help they need, or did not know about. This is a great networking event for families and veterans.”
Another Navy veteran, Stephen Soto, said, “I’m really grateful for the people who came out to show support for veterans. There are so many different organizations here. It’s great to see so many.”
Vasquez, who is an Army medic veteran, said, “I thank the Porterville community and all the organizations who provided the items that were raffled off to the veterans. They were very supportive.”
“This is our 8th event, and every year it has grown. We outgrew the Elks Lodge, so we’re at the Memorial Building. Next year we will provide both eyewear and dental services to the veterans. And we also want to provide a veteran’s court and diversion program, with services that aren’t currently being met, like help with traffic and fines.”
Cody Ridenour from Porterville College administration said, “The Porterville Veterans Standdown is an incredible resource for veterans. Upon leaving the military my knowledge about veterans benefits was non-existent.
My back was going out regularly for several months, and I did not find out I had VA insurance and could see a doctor until I attended this event.”
Vietnam Veteran Eddie Orosco who was a parachute rigger in the Air Force from 1966 until 1970, said, “This was a great event. And hopefully a lot of veterans found the services they needed.”
Many thanks to all the local donors and families, including local artists, restaurants, services such a haircutting, the Porterville Chamber of Commerce, and everyone else.