Sunday, April 7, 2013

Great Gear & Great Volunteers Are Sure To Highlight 2013 Tri-State Veterans Stand Down In Plains, MT May 4th & 5th!

Womens Army Corps veteran Christy Steigers-Bridges, far left, of Missoula enjoyed the gear she took home from the 2012 Tri-State Veterans Stand Down...Plus worked as a volunteer to make it enjoyable for all vets attending.  Following photos show some of the $2.5-million in great gear to be redistributed to military vets at the 2013 Stand Down.  Click on photos to enlarge.

 Tri-State Veterans Stand Down In Plains Expected To Draw A Great Turn Out

          Per capita, Montana has the largest number of veterans of any state in the Lower 48.  In the six counties that make up the northwest corner of Montana, there are more than 11,000 military veterans, including  4,000 in Missoula County alone.  With just as many next door in northern Idaho, and in eastern Washington as well, the Sanders County Fairground in Plains, MT is expected to be a very busy place the weekend of May 4 and 5 as the second annual Tri-State Veterans Stand Down welcomes veterans of all ages from all three states.  Last year, more than 1,000 veterans gathered for the event.
          So, just what is a Veterans Stand  Down?
          Originally, the term "Stand Down" meant to pull combat troops away from battle, and get them to a place of relative security and safety where they could rest and recover.  Today, the term stands for a program that reaches out to veterans needing a helping hand.  More than 200 such events now take place across the country every year - where military veterans can receive medical assistance, legal advice, food, clothing and gear, along with information on veterans programs and benefits.
          Much of the clothing and gear comes in the form of military surplus.  For last year's Tri-State Veterans Stand Down, coordinator Billy Hill, of Trout Creek, MT, had accumulated surplus items valued at nearly $1.5-million.  The 2012 event was such a success, even more of that military surplus has been provided this year - and since mid March, Hill and a handful of Sanders County volunteers have been extremely busy unboxing and organizing close to $2.5-million of surplus boots, sleeping bags, clothing, blankets,  and other surplus gear.
          "It takes a lot of work to get this much stuff unloaded...unpacked... organized...and laid out...and it takes the help of some great volunteers to make an event of this magnitude run smoothly and be successful," says Hill. 
          Last year, two completely packed fairground show barns of surplus were handed out to Montana, Idaho and Washington military vets.  There is so much gear this year that a third barn had to be added, and it is expected to be nearly all distributed during the two-day Stand Down. 
          Hill is quick to point out, "This is not a hand is a hand up.  It's veterans helping veterans."
          Among the free goods to be redistributed to qualified veterans will be hi-tech modular sleeping systems, extreme cold weather sleeping bags, aluminum pack frames with rucksacks, wool Navy pea-coats, wool socks, wool blankets, insulated underwear, boots, and other surplus military gear.  When Veteran Stand Downs were first widely organized, they were geared to serve the homeless veteran who found "camping out" a new way of life.  With so many people now strapped by a struggling economy, barely being able to stretch one paycheck to the next, or having no job at all, today's Stand Down events are now open to all military veterans.
          The Tri-State Veterans Stand Down takes place at the Sanders County Fairground, 30 River Road, Plains, MT on May 4th and 5th, from 0800 Hrs. (8 a.m.) to 1600 Hrs. (4 p.m.) each day.  Hot breakfasts and lunches will be served both days, and for those who are in need, haircuts and showers will be provided.  Event coordinator Billy Hill says all veterans are welcomed, whether they come for the surplus clothing and gear, the meals, to learn more about V.A. services and benefits, for health services, to seek employment, or for the camaraderie and being with many other military veterans.
          "Everybody's entitled to one of each item and by the time they leave, each should have a sleeping bag.  The bag will be full of items and also a duffel bag will be full," says Hill.
          Those attending must bring a form DD-214, discharge, V.A. or military I.D. as proof of military service.  For more details contact Billy Hill at (406) 847-2407. 

Volunteers Needed - Especially needed are able bodied young men and women who can help veterans, some who are disabled, to pack gear from the fairgrounds to the adjacent parking areas.  Volunteers should contact Billy Hill at (406) 847-2407. 


Billy Hill, second from left and far right in the photo at the top of this post, organized the first ever Tri-State Veterans Stand Down, held in May 2012.  Thanks to dozens of volunteers from the Sanders County area, it was not only one of the largest such events held in the state, it was also one of the smoothest run Stand Downs ever held in Motnana.  Billy is shown here with some of the volunteers which are now working hard to organize all the gear to be redistributed to qualifying veterans May 4th and 5th.  Click on photos to enlarge. 

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