Supporting Service Members: What is a Stand Down?

Starting this August and continuing through fall, the Minnesota Red Cross will be among many organizations providing services for military veterans at Stand Down events. Below, we explain.

Minneapolis Stand Down for veterans, 2016. Photo by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

What is a Stand Down?

In times of war, exhausted combat units, requiring time to rest and recover, were removed from the battlefields to a place of relative security and safety. At secure base camp areas, troops were able to take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, receive medical and dental care, mail and receive letters, and enjoy the camaraderie of friends in a safe environment. Stand Down afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being.

Today, Stand Down refers to a grassroots, community-based intervention program designed to help the nation’s estimated 200,000 homeless veterans “combat” life on the streets. Homeless veterans are brought together in a single location and are provided access to the community resources needed to begin addressing their individual problems and rebuilding their lives. A Stand Down also affords the same respite and renewal to all veterans in an atmosphere conducive to change and recovery.

December 1970. Firebase Tomahawk, Vietnam. Grunts just in from the field open Red Cross ditty bags on Christmas morning. “This lonely outpost is  located in northern South Vietnam about 30 miles northwest of DaNang.” Photo by American Red Cross

What happens at a Stand Down?

Hundreds of homeless and at-risk veterans are provided with a broad range of necessities including food, clothing, medical, legal and mental health assistance, job counseling and referral, and most importantly, companionship and camaraderie. It is a time for the community to connect with the homeless veteran population and address this crisis that affects each and every town, city and state in this country. The hand up, not a handout philosophy of Stand Down is carried out through the work of hundreds of volunteers and organizations throughout the nation.

Who organizes and delivers theses services?

Hundreds of caring volunteers and professionals give of their time and expertise to address the unique needs of homeless veterans. Most Minnesota Stand Downs are organized by Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MAC-V), a non-profit focused on ending veteran homelessness in our state.

What does the Red Cross do at Stand Downs?

The Minnesota Red Cross, led by the Service to the Armed Forces team, comprised mostly of volunteers, has a booth at every Stand Down. We provide comfort kits containing items, such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, comb, and other personal hygiene items. Many of these kits are generously donated to us by supportive members of our community. We might also provide other support items, such as socks, emergency blankets, and first aid kits. We also help to connect veterans to other resources the Red Cross and our community partner’s provide.

At Stand Down events, the Red Cross provides comfort kits containing items, such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, comb, and other personal hygiene items. Minneapolis Stand Down, 2016. Photo by Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross.

Where are the Minnesota Stand Downs held?

This year’s upcoming Minnesota Stand Downs are taking place at the following locations:

  • Minneapolis: Target Field, Aug. 16
  • International Falls: Backus Community Center,  Aug. 22
  • Duluth: Bayfront Festival Park, Aug. 23
  • Bemidji: National Guard Armory, Sept. 25
  • Grand Rapids: IRA Civic Center, Sept. 26
  • St. Cloud: River’s Edge Convention Center, Oct. 18
  • Mankato: Civic Center, Oct. 26

Want to Learn More?

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer supporting service members, feel free to contact Alex Smith at alexis.smith3@redcross.org — author of this post. Thanks Alex!

Click here to learn more about our history providing relief to the wounded during times of war. And watch the video below.

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