Homeless or at-risk veterans got an invitation to a stand down at the Santa Maria Fairpark on Saturday.
The Second Annual Santa Barbara County Stand Down was organized by 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino. He said, "What's really sad is we are starting to see a lot of really young guys having a really hard time adjusting to society after coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan."
500 volunteers and local businesses offered the veterans who showed up the opportunity to eat a hot meal, shower, get a haircut, and learn about programs including veterans treatment court, California ID Cards, housing, employment and training, legal assistance, and social services.
Vets also got some counseling to help deal with the invisible effects of war, like post traumatic stress. Lavagnino said, "These guys try to swallow it. They try to bury it, but through PTSD counseling we know these issues surface later and we want to get them the professional help they need, now."
The stand down was also a chance for veterans from different wars to talk about their unique experiences. Vietnam veteran Reed Brewer said, "We have these young veterans now that are on their sixth tour of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don't even want to comprehend serving six tours in Vietnam. "
Lavagnino says the momentum is building and he's committed to putting on the event again next year.