NewsLocal News


Santa Maria Elk's Lodge hosts Stand Down for veterans

veteran stand down.JPG
Posted at 4:44 PM, Nov 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-30 22:51:09-05

The third Veterans Stand Down of the year took place at the Elk’s Lodge in Santa Maria on Wednesday. It is an opportunity for veterans to come together over a warm meal and take advantage of resources offered by the community.

“The Band of Brothers saved my life," said Luke Winter, veteran and Band of Brothers member. "I was in a very bad way. I was incarcerated for six days. Steve Baird, the President of Band of Brothers, actually pulled me out of jail and I’ve been clean and sober ever since.”

Band of Brothers works to prevent veteran suicide and has a booth at stand down events to get the word out.

“We forget about what those going out of combat, what goes on in their head. We forget about that. It’s very important that it’s brought to be aware of and the Band of Brothers is there for everybody and anybody," Winter said.

“It’s just a place together. That’s all it is, you know. Sometimes, you don’t see them for a whole month, and all of a sudden you see them all at one time that’s enough,” said veteran Luis Navarro.

“It’s great you can come here and have a meal. It’s just good for us,” said veteran Rudy Galvan.

“I wanted to see if I had seen any of my friends. I’ve seen maybe 3,4, of my friends that I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. It kind of gets people together,” said veteran Gene Franco.

“Just sit around and talk about old times. That’s about all we got left,” said veteran Kent Hill.

“When I got out of the service, I was a Vietnam Veteran and they treated us terrible, so this is a little bit of help-type deal,” said veteran JD Nichols.

Veteran Gerald Chase is the Founder of Clover Lane Foundation and says he is passionate about supporting Veterans, particularly those struggling with homelessness. For Wednesday’s event, he donated boxes of shoes to help ensure each veteran has what they need as we head into the winter months.

“This is an organization that I respect, that I know about, I am aligned with them with our organization," Chase said.

Other organizations say winter clothing is much needed and appreciated.

“They’re very much needed going into the winter months. People need winter gear, cold weather gear, sometimes just to know that people care about them and are still thinking about these veterans,” said Larry D. Jones, veteran and VA Volunteer Service Specialist.

These events aren’t just to support veterans, they also provide a sense of community for families of veterans.

“All of us. We’ve all paid a price. The wives have paid. That’s what people forget, too — the wives of the guys that were over there, they were home,” Franco said.

Pam Gnekow, CEO of Santa Ynez Community Outreach, says when her son was serving in Iraq, being able to connect with other veterans made her feel better during a difficult time.

“When he was in Iraq, the veterans in this community pretty much saved me. They kept my mood up, you know, when you’re so worried, and they were someplace to go," Gnekow said.

“We’re actually trying to work on the outreach process itself to be able to ensure that the veterans that need this assistance are actually able to obtain it,” said David Hernandez, Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce.

“They can get help however they need, get in touch with anyone. Reach out. We want to get that message across to reach out," said Timothy Reynolds, Elk’s Lodge Veterans Committee Chairman.

The next stand down is set to take place at the Elk’s Lodge in January.

If you would like to volunteer or donate to a veteran stand down event, contact the Santa Maria Elk’s Lodge.