Stand Down offers vets more support than ever

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Stand Down offers vets more support than everWith a week left to finalize participation, organizers of the sixth annual Ridgecrest Veterans Stand Down will offer more support and services than ever to veterans living in and around the Indian Wells Valley.

The annual event brings together employers, service agencies and other resources for those who have served in the Armed Forces. This year’s event will be held Friday, Sept. 21, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Kerr McGee Center.

“We have 58 participating agencies so far, which is the largest number of vendors we have ever had,” said Carol Coy, one of the coordinators of the event. “We have filled the main room, all the side rooms, and I still have people calling me wanting tables.”

Carol and her husband Nick, longtime advocates of veteran-centric causes, note that the first Stand Down began in San Diego, when the city identified a large number of homeless veterans in need of support. “So they started the first Stand Down to bring services in one place to get our vets the help they needed.”

The inspiration for the Ridgecrest event comes from two places. Former Mayor Ron Carter told the Coys that his grandchildren, who had returned from deployments in Afghanistan, were having a tough time connecting to the benefits their service qualified them for.

Around that same time, the Coys were visiting a friend in Fresno who had helped bring a Stand Down to his community.

“We happened to be visiting when this was going on, and we realized this was something that could really benefit the Ridgecrest community,” said Carol.

“So Nick started a small one, and throughout the years it has grown.”

Nick said that support from elected officials, primarily Kevin McCarthy’s office, also helped establish the event.

Carol said that one of the highlights of this year’s event will be the agencies on hand to help veterans register for medical care.

“Because we are so far away from the Veterans Administration, we have something called Veterans Choice for our residents — which means people who live here can use this to go to any doctor here in town. We will be signing vets up for the service, and someone will be on hand to do physicals, as well.”

The Stand Down also features a mini job-fair. “One of the big ones I think is going to help a lot is the DOD recruitment center, which will be participating this year,” said Carol.

Representatives from other VA sites, along with law-enforcement agencies, higher-education institutions, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, and more will also be on hand to help veterans connect to the resources they need to thrive.

Last year’s event attracted more than 300 veterans, many of whom came from underserved neighboring communities from Kern River Valley to Bishop to Rand.

Thanks to donor support, veterans and their families will be served food during the event.

“The community has been very supportive of this event,” said Carol. “I think that’s why we’ve been able to grow every year.”

However, the Coys are still looking for volunteers to support the event. Anyone wishing to contribute may call Carol at 760-608-9251 or Nick at 760-608-1484.

Story First Published: 2018-09-14