by Lucas Myers 7/19/13
A hero is a person who is admired for overcoming great adversity through extraordinary courage and ability. With Comic Con recently taking over downtown San Diego they were easy to spot: heroes wearing capes and brightly colored costumes. But it was prior to Comic Con that I learned how to spot San Diego's real heroes. To most of us they are invisible. You probably passed one on the way to work. As you sat in your car waiting for the light to change one walked right by you. They wear disguises. He might have covered his face with a bushy beard. She might have hidden behind a cardboard sign. But the reason that most people don't see San Diego's invisible heroes is because they choose not to. It is uncomfortable. Maybe they are asking for spare change. Maybe shabby, mismatched clothes and an unfamiliar odor make you nervous. They sleep in doorways. They push shopping carts. They have given everything in defense of our way of life. They are San Diego's homeless veterans.
I recently had the opportunity to meet over a thousand homeless veterans at the annual Stand Down San Diego event in Balboa Park. Stand Down is held every year for 3 days every July. Veterans Village of San Diego organizes the event to offer these soldiers, seamen, airmen, and marines a helping hand. It has become so successful that it has become a model for Stand Down events held all over the country. As one of hundreds of volunteers, I assisted veterans and their families with accessing showers, clean clothes, barbers, doctors, dentists, optometrists, counselors, chaplains, legal assistance, and a safe place to sleep. In addition, Stand Down offers help with accessing benefits, finding employment, and seeking shelter. For those three days, these heroes are not invisible. Lives are changed and lives are saved as thousands of caring volunteers and professionals give their time to address the challenges facing so many of San Diego's veterans.
I spoke with military spouses and children that volunteered at Stand Down. Many of them were transformed by their experience. They told me about how meeting other veterans and hearing their stories helped them understand how their husbands and fathers had been changed by combat duty. They cried as they talked about the time they had missed with an absent or angry veteran. But this event was characterized by love and hope.
Many past Stand Down attendees returned to help and to spread their stories of healing, inspiration, transformation, and redemption. Stand Down is a second chance that these men and women deserve. A chance to overcome great adversity. A chance to be admired. A chance to be heroes.
If you would like more information about how to help with next year’s Stand Down, click here.
If you are, or know a veteran or veteran's family member who may be struggling with homelessness or needs assistance accessing resources, please encourage them to contact the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255) for free, confidential support 24/7.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with PTSD or heightened anxiety as a result of serving in combat or another traumatic experience, and you would like to speak with a professional at The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, you may contact us at 858-354-4077 or firstname.lastname@example.org