By Kyle Fiehler/American Red Cross
In the military, a “Stand Down” is a term used to describe the cessation of normal duties for the purpose of addressing an incident or emergency. They’re usually used to focus efforts on safety, training and equipping personnel to better deal with similar circumstances in the future. But for homeless veterans, standing down means something a little different.
James Griffith (R) works with team member to prepare for the
Homeless Veterans Stand down. Photo American Red Cross
Instead of breaking from the routine of military life, homeless veterans break from the uncertainty of living life on the streets. This often means coming in from the cold for winter clothing and personal hygiene items and connecting with a host of other services that can help improve their situation. And though some may eventually return to homelessness, the hope is that they return better prepared for the coming winter than they would have been before standing down.
James Griffith is a current Red Cross volunteer, former staffer and a veteran of the United States Army, where he served for more than 30 years. He served in the Army Chaplain Corps from 1985 to 2011 and spent the last six years of that time working in a hospital that received a large number of wounded from both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Griffith cites those final six years of his military service as an example of the camaraderie and the clear-cut mission focus that so many veterans have trouble replicating when they return to civil society. The relative lack of cohesion, the transience of military life (Griffith’s sixth year in Colorado will mark the longest he’s remained in one place in his life), the general lack of job opportunities, and the isolating nature of some of the psychological effects of deployment are all contributing factors to the problem of homelessness among military veterans.
It’s also why assistance and transition programs are so important for reintegrating service members back into society. The Red Cross, says Griffith, is instrumental to the lives of military communities in Colorado and around the country.
|James Griffith (R) and SAF team members hold a banner|
from a corporate sponsor at the Homeless Veterans
Stand Down. Photo courtesy of Durango Herald
“When a kid first comes into a military in-processing station, before they’re taken to basic training even, they’re given a briefing on Red Cross emergency services, so that if something comes up their family can get ahold of them,” he said. “And the Red Cross is often a veteran’s introduction into the greater social service network when they return.”
Despite huge challenges remaining, Griffith says we’re getting better at addressing the needs of our veterans as a society.
“Since the First Gulf War, the American people have been pretty vocal about their support. And that emotional support helps our veterans,” he said.
James is one of the hundreds of Red Cross volunteers who work to support our nation’s military, their families and veterans all day, every day. The Red Cross is proud to provide homeless veterans with Stand Down assistance across Colorado and Wyoming.
This Veteran’s Day, the American Red Cross would like to salute all the members of our armed forces, and to remind them that we’re proud to support them and their families.