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Veterans Get Needed Services At 16th Stand Down

American GI Forum

San Antonio veterans down on their luck lined up to take advantage of free services available at the 16th annual Veterans Stand Down.

"It's a military term saying that there's a reprieve going behind battle lines where they can sit down, they can relax," said Ignacio Leija, vice president of service operations for the American GI Forum National Veterans Outreach Program. " They can write letters. In this case, they're coming in from the concrete jungle if you will. They're coming in from those areas where they're staying under bridges and abandoned buildings, and we're saying come on in here and let us provide you services."

Sixty service providers from the Texas Workforce Commission and the VA and counselors are here to help those like Jesse Vasquez, who had to relocate from Victoria, leaving his daughter behind until he can get a job and a place to live.

"People are really good to me, the GI Forum, trying to get me on the right path to get some shelter for me and my daughter, move her back up here," Vasquez said.

The stand down happens every year the Friday before Veterans Day. The people who come here need to get at least three signatures from social services so leaders know they're trying to get help, before heading to the most popular line here at the Stand Down, the clothing line.

"A sleeping mat, a pair of boots, a jacket, whether it's a fleece or heavy coat," said Master Sgt. Alan Weary.

He and a host of active duty military members are here to offer their services, comfort and support.

"We can never do enough as far as to assist them," he said. "These are people that have paid that ultimate sacrifice as far as giving their time, their service, and they are hard on their luck, maybe it's due to a decision they made, or just life just being difficult."

Although this is a once a year chance to give local vets a boost, people like case worker Mary Mabe are out there everyday helping where they can to honor those who've sacrificed so much.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.