GREENFIELD — One local philanthropic organization seeks to create a welcoming space for young veterans to gather.
It’s challenging to replace the sense of belonging and camaraderie a military unit provides for veterans returning from active duty, said Elks Lodge president Michael Jack. To help foster that feeling of being at home, the Greenfield Elks Lodge has established a new monthly group called “Stand Down 17.”
The group’s first meeting is planned for 8 a.m. Saturday at the Greenfield Elks Lodge, 820 S. State St. The group will meet from 8 to 11 a.m. the second Saturday of every month.
“Stand Down” — a reference to days of rest and recovery military men had while deployed overseas during the Vietnam War — is the name given to the Vietnam Veterans of America organization’s three-day homeless veterans outreach events, Jack said.
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The group’s goal is to prevent suicide among veterans, Jack said, citing the national statistic that about 20 veterans in the United States die by suicide daily.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks nationally seeks to improve communities by supporting students with scholarships and aiding veterans through various endeavors. Helping to create Stand Down 17 is another way for the local Elks to support Hancock County veterans, Jack said.
At first, the group’s meetings will be simple: refreshments will be served, and Bob Workman, Hancock County’s veterans services officer, will be present to discuss veteran affairs.
Workman will attend the Stand Down 17 group meeting to provide information about veterans’ medical care, insurance needs, benefits and other information he shares as the county’s veterans affairs officer. Recently discharged veterans are provided free medical and dental care for five years following their discharge, a fact many young veterans do not know, Workman said.
He’s happy to help with the group to ensure every Hancock County veteran is reached and supported, he said.
“I support anything we can do to get veterans to get together,” Workman said.
Jack said he plans to allow the group to evolve to meet the needs of the veterans who attend.
He said younger veterans are looking for a group to call their own, in which they can meet with fellow comrades who’ve experienced similar war times.
“They just don’t have a lot of interest in being a part of the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars,” Jack said. “There are a lot of younger veterans who aren’t comfortable with the existing organizations, and we are trying to address that need.”
Kim Hall, director of Hancock County Mental Health Partners, expressed her support of the new group as well.
The more groups and individuals working to improve the lives of veterans, the better, she said.
Stand Down 17, a monthly meeting for Hancock County veterans, will be held the second Saturday of each month at the Greenfield Elks Lodge, 820 S. State St.
The group’s first meeting will be held 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday.