Stand Down considered a success for local veterans

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005

Over the past few days, members of the local Disabled American Veterans chapters helped several of their fellow comrades get some newfound benefits. One person interviewed for a job, while another got a new way home.

And one other person’s life might have been saved.

It was all part of the Suffolk DAV chapter’s first Stand Down event at the Suffolk Armory. Reginald Ruffin and some of his colleagues extended a helping hand to some of their veteran brothers and sisters.

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&uot;One way or another, we helped all of them,&uot; Ruffin said of his &uot;clients.&uot; &uot;We had some success. People came in, and we had the right stuff to help them. We were prepared, and it was outstanding.&uot;

State DAV commander Marshall Harless and Joseph Williams, of the Virginia Veterans Hospital, showed up to help at Stand Down 2005.

One woman came into the armory complaining that her mouth was hurting, and filled out several forms to get new medication. Another veteran got a job interview at the hospital.

On Tuesday afternoon, a Persian Gulf war veteran and his son came to the event, having learned of it the day before from police officers, who had stopped the pair after mistaking them for hitchhikers. Recently laid off from the Newport News Shipyard, the two had been evicted from their apartment, and now were left to walk home to Texas, supporting themselves along the way with odd jobs.

That’s when everyone came together. All the members of the local DAV groups reached into their pockets and gave whatever they could. When they were finished, enough money had been pooled to purchase a pair of bus tickets for the men, giving them a free ride to Amarillo.

But perhaps the most memorable moment came the next day. A man in his early 50s made his way into the building, aided by a walker for a longtime back injury. Exhausted from seven bus rides in four hours to get from Norfolk to Suffolk and out of medication, the man flopped down in a chair, and a nurse came to help him.

Finding that his pulse was over 100, she told the veterans to get the man to a hospital. They did, and he was quickly stabilized and given some new medication.

&uot;I feel like everyone that’s been through a war needs help,&uot; said veteran Leon A. Williams.

&uot;I’ve been a serviceman myself (he served in the South Pacific during World War II) and I’ve seen a lot of people that have been down and out.

&uot;You feel sorry for them, the people that have lost limbs that look like they’re getting the runaround from certain organizations. Some had lost everything they had, and our main thing was to try and help them. It made us feel good because we’d done something to help a fellow man, and they were enthused about the help we could give them.&uot;

Now Ruffin is embarking on another mission; he wants to construct a shelter for the local homeless.

&uot;I want to help the homeless people in this area,&uot; he said (he estimates that veterans make up between 20 and 30 percent of the local homeless). &uot;That’s my goal this year. I’m sure there’s somebody paying taxes on land they don’t need, or has a building they don’t want to fix up.&uot;

For more information, contact Ruffin at 934-2695 or 539-9996.