AFTER THE WAR: East Texas organization helps veterans get back to normal life



East Texas is home to thousands of veterans, and for many, one of the biggest struggles they go through happens once home.

The East Texas Veterans Alliance held the first “Veterans Stand Down” event.

The organization says “Stand Down” refers to a program designed to give opportunities to homeless veterans and veterans in need to “combat” the hardships of life.

The Veterans Alliance says this is a crisis, and the mission behind the event was to provide a hand up, not a handout.

Walking around the event, you probably saw a small, but an adorable little dog.

“Say hi buddy,” says Randall Hutchison, as he pets his emotional support dog named Buddy.

Getting an emotional support dog is just one of the resources veterans like Hutchison can sign up for as part of the one-day event.

“I mean look at all these people wanting to help, doing whatever they can,” says Hutchison looking around at the vendors.

Hutchison served in the Vietnam War, and now that he is back home in the United States, he says it’s been a struggle to adapt back to civilian life. Another veteran, Kevin Fant, agrees.

“Just re-adjusting back to the civilian way of doing things, it’s really tough,” explains Fant, who served in the Marine Corps and Iraq War.

Fant attended the “Stand Down” event looking to get a service dog.

“I didn’t know how to get a service dog, and now I do because I went and talked to one of the ladies who showed me who I need to get in touch with,” says Fant.

With stigmas surrounding the veteran community, Fant and Hutchison are thankful to get the help they need.

“That we’re all crazy, we’re not, we’ve just been through a lot,” says Fant.

The purpose of the event is to help veterans when they come home. Whether it be with health insurance, transportation, or even a phone to get in contact with their loved ones.

“You know they fight a battle, but the battle that they fight is harder when they get home,” says Jessilyn Edwards, a volunteer with the East Texas Veterans Alliance.

Edwards believes events like this will have a lasting effect on those it helps.

“Hope, I hope it gives them hope to know that the battle that they fought is always going to be a continuance battle, but just to know that they’re people out here that care,” says Edwards.

Local community partners offered free services to veterans, including free transportation to the event, haircuts, health screenings, legal assistance, emergency housing options, and employment support services.

“A lot of people care and are here for our veterans we haven’t forgotten about them and to just never give up,” explains Edwards.

The organization believes veterans that live in rural East Texas face many unique challenges such as accessing quality care and are often forced to travel over 100 miles to get primary care.

This is the first time the East Texas Veterans Alliance held this event, hoping to make this annual.

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