Today was the first of a 3-day “Stand Down” at the Michigan Veterans Foundation. I was a volunteer at the event. A Stand Down is what we used to call an R&R in the Army. The streets are the battlefields and the MVF is the haven. Haircuts, breakfast, lunch and supper were provided. They had legal services there; along with Social Security and Veteran’s Affairs reps. Numerous church groups were there to explain their individual programs.

I saw the members of the Color Guard that posted the colors at our 4th of July event. All but 2 embraced me and thanked me for the donations the Rattle With Us group gave. That’s okay. 6 out of 8 isn’t bad.

It was a truly satisfying day in many ways. I worked the front entrance. It was my job to insure only veterans came in. It was there I met a young man named Ron. Ron looked like he was 19 years old. When I asked if he was a Vet, he said, “Yes”. I asked what branch of service, he said, “The Marines.” The line was backing up, but I still didn’t believe him. He then produced his DD214 (Department of Defense document proving service in the military). “Good enough”, I said. “Thank you for your service.”

I saw Ron a bit later. He had a couple of bags of goodies and was on the outside of the snow fence that was put up around the block. He was headed home. I asked if he got the help he needed and he said, “Yes, thank you.” I asked if he spoke with anyone about finding a job and he got a puzzled look on his face. I took him to the MVF tent that had a job councilor. They chatted for 20 minutes or so and when he came out of the tent, he was beaming. Ron smiled from ear to ear. We stood in the “chow line” together a chatted about what he learned and what he was going to do next. This young man had a good vision for his future. We talked about his experience in Iraq. He was a water treatment specialist who insured the drinking water was safe for the troops. We talked about his pending divorce from his wife and the 3 months it had been since he had seen his kids.

I tacked down Tyrone Chatman and introduced him to Ron. Ron explained that the experience at the Stand Down had changed his life. Monday, Ron will go back to the MVF and meet his caseworker. Ron will make it. He is a fine young man.

As we were packing up, my partner at the desk, Derrick, asked where I lived. I told him Canton. He asked if I could give him a ride home. “Sure”, I said and we hopped in my Escort with the stickers still on it from the 4th of July. I told him that Mr. Chatman spoke at the event. He was surprised. On the way home, I asked him about Cap & Trade. (After all, he was a captive audience.) He didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. We talked about Sotomayor. He knew about her and was totally against her appointment. We talked about health care. He said, “my man will never let that happen.” I explained that “his man’s” 1st choice as health care guru, Tom Daschle, said that old people have to get used to the fact that they are going to die. He was shocked. He opened his door to leave 3 different times, but closed it again only to ask more questions. We sat in front of his place for about 20 minutes. He goes to Wayne State’s library to surf the web. I told him told check out what I had been telling him.

I will be going back for the closing of the Stand Down on Sunday. Hopefully, Derrick will have more of the facts than he is getting from the press.

Now, comes the moral of my lengthily tale. We are all in this together, Ron & Derrick and you & I. We all strive to be independent. You and I strive to keep our independence. Ron and Derrick strive to get theirs. Factual information is a powerful tool, but so is the manner it is presented. The information Ron received today will change his life. The information Derrick received has opened his mind to will change the way he thinks. It already has.

Today was a good day.

Keep up the good fight!

Tom

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