Close to 100 Veterans Take Part in Day One of Veterans' "Stand Down" in Dillingham
As of Friday afternoon, close to 100 veterans have made it through the Veterans Stand Down process at the middle school gym in Dillingham. The Bristol Bay Area has hundreds of veterans that are not accessing benefits through the VA.
Samuel Hudson is a public affairs officer for the Alaska VA healthcare system. He took KDLG through the gym where the stand down was happening. He says the first and most important step is getting registered.
"We're getting a lot of veterans who are not registered... in order for them to receive the benefits they so rightfully deserve, we have to get them registered. That's the first thing we do, is get them registered with the 1010-EZ. Once we do that, it opens up all sorts of doors. From compensation, burial, certificates, DD-214s, etc. That's the focus," said Hudson.
That process should be pretty quick. There are several other organizations on hand, like the state Veterans administration, the Bristol Bay jobs center, Bristol Bay health corporation, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart. You can get your vision tested, blood sugar checked, and snap a photo for a veterans ID.
And as promised, the VA brought in several containers worth of military surplus gear for veterans.
"We're talking sea bags, winterized clothing, sweatshirts, Army and Airforce jumpsuits, it's an abundance of things we give back to the veterans," said Hudson.
Beyond the military support personnel, Brigadier General "Mike" Bridges, the commander of the Alaska Army national guard, will be on hand Saturday to meet with veterans and community members. For those veterans who haven’t made up their minds about the event, Hudson says to swing on by.
"If you're Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guard, Army, National Guard, Reserve, we all bleed red in service to our country. Come on down, get anything and everything you can, find Sharon, Ric, Sam, Doris, say hey, 'I want my benefits' and we'll do everything we possibly can to help them out," said Hudson.
The Veterans Stand Down event in Dillingham continues Saturday from 8 to 3 at the middle school gym. If you can’t make it in, you can go to Alaska.va.gov to begin the registration process, or call 1-800-478-5257.