American Legion post holds ‘stand down’ for homeless vets
Members of the community gathered at American Legion Post 426 in Alvarado Friday to distribute winter essentials to homeless veterans in Johnson County.
The event, called a “stand down,” was a first for Johnson County.
“In the military, troops do a stand down when they are preparing for a mission,” Angie Soliz, president of the auxiliary unit, said. “This stand down is preparing our homeless veterans for the winter months. We want to give them winter clothing head-to-toe with a sleeping bag and a blanket.”
The legion hall was filled to the brim with donated duffel bags, jeans, coats, boots, sleeping bags and blankets. While picking up their new items, veterans were also treated to a hot meal, along with snacks and hygiene packs to take with them.
In Johnson County, there are over 1,000 homeless veterans, Soliz said.
“There really aren’t a lot of facilities in Johnson County to meet their needs,” said Soliz. “The unit participated in the Cowtown Stand Down last year. We saw it was so successful there that we wanted to bring it to Johnson County to see if we can help our hometown people.”
The American Legion strives to take care of the men and women who have served their country, Soliz said.
“We are really committed to helping our people,” said Soliz. “We take in displaced veterans for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If they don’t have a means of cooking, we will cook them a holiday meal and take it to them. If they can cook, we will give them a gift card to a grocery store so they can go buy their stuff. We also give them gift cards for their children’s Christmas presents.”
Rooster Jackson, an Air Force veteran, said the American Legion helped him out when he retired from duty in 1999.
“I’ve been a member here for over 10 years,” Jackson said. “The legion feels like home to me.”
Jackson said that often, if is hard for homeless veterans in Johnson County to get to downtown Fort Worth to get the help they need.
“There are some good programs in the area, put on mostly by churches and a few shelters,” Jackson said. “Like anything, those are temporary so they can’t stay there all the time. At some point, they have to leave and that is where they start to run into trouble.”
Jackson made it clear that despite these veterans being homeless, they are desperate to improve their situation.
“They do try and get out during the day to work,” Jackson said. “They want to work and make a better life for themselves. They don’t want to be homeless. They want to be productive.”
Reverend Kathryn Fasci, director of veteran services for Johnson County, said the VA needs to do more for it’s rural-based veterans.
“The VA is tied into Dallas, and a lot of the homeless vets in this area can’t get to Dallas because they don’t have transportation,” Fasci said, noting she’s seen veterans living in their cars and in sheds.
“Those veterans need help right away,” said Fasci. “There is just a lot that is needed. The VA has made efforts, but they need to do more outreach for those who live in rural areas.”
American Legion Post 426 is planning another “stand down” for December 11. If you would like to donate to the next “stand down,” please call the post at 817-790-0997.