Stand Down 101 (and details behind a recent Red Cross award)

By Katie Baneck, American Red Cross

The American Red Cross of Wisconsin has been involved in veteran “Stand Down” events across the state for years. But what exactly what are these events? And why did the Red Cross receive an award at the recent Milwaukee Stand Down?

On Saturday, February 22 the American Legion hosted the bi-annual Milwaukee Stand Down. Held at the Wisconsin National Guard Armory, of the Richards Street Armory, in Milwaukee, the event engages hundreds of veterans at events in February and September.

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The Milwaukee Stand Down event brings a “hand up, not a hand out” to hundreds of volunteers each year.

The purpose of the Stand Down is to bring a variety of resources together under one roof and to provide those services to homeless and at-risk veterans. The dozens of supporters span government, nonprofit and private organizations. Assistance at the event ranges from employment, housing, legal aid, medical and additional access to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs resources, as well as a range of every day social services, such as haircuts. In two examples behind the scenes, Rockwell Automation operated a clothing closet and Molson Coors provided bagged lunches.

The event is truly about providing a hand up, not a hand out. Like all veterans, those who come to these events made sacrifices to serve our country, and the transition from service to civilian life can be difficult. At the Milwaukee Stand Down in February, Matt Beattie with veteran support nonprofit DryHootch put it this way. Beattie said that while he was able to do what was required to receive the necessary benefits after service, it is not easy for everyone. He’s had friends give up mid-process, because accessing your benefits can be a long and somewhat difficult process, depending on how you were affected during your service. Fortunately, Milwaukee’s office of Veteran’s Affairs participates in the Stand Down Rally in a variety of capacities. Homeless vets can utilize services at the rally that they might not otherwise have easy access to on a regular basis.

SAF Michelle and Rich at Milwaukee Stand Down Feb 2020

Michelle Matuszak, left, and Richard Seymour, both with the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces team, recently accepted the Founder’s Award from the Milwaukee Stand Down. 

The Stand Down has been going on for close to 30 years now, and the Red Cross has been participating for almost as long. As part of its Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) mission, Red Cross volunteers and staff provide a swath of immediate needs and connections to ongoing resources to veterans at these events. And this year, Red Cross SAF leaders were recognized with the Founder’s Award.

The plaque, presented to Michelle Matuszak and Rich Seymour, reads: “In recognition of their outstanding contributions and years of dedicated service to the Homeless Veterans of Milwaukee County and their families … Thank you for caring enough to make a difference.”

When asked why participating in this event is so important, Seymour, himself a veteran, cited part of the Red Cross drive to provide service members, veterans and their families “around the clock, around the globe, under a trusted symbol.”

“We also want to give them the tools to get back on their feet, find employment and housing, so that they are enjoying their life to the fullest,” Seymour concluded.

To get involved in the Milwaukee Stand Down event, click here.

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