Veterans Stand Down
The Buffalo Central Terminal was once a hub for travel, with over 200 trains arriving daily. Men leaving for war said goodbye to their loved ones on its platforms. The story goes that during World War II , men leaving Buffalo for the war often rubbed the original stuffed bison for good luck, thus wearing out the bison’s hide. ( It was removed to the Buffalo Museum of Science and replaced with a plaster cast statue.)
On Wednesday, May 23, 2012 the Central Terminal again hosted hundreds of soldiers attending the “Stand Down” for U.S military veterans. The term “Stand Down” comes from the Vietnam era, when soldiers were called from the battlefield to a safe area so they could eat a meal and rest.
Held annually, the Stand Down has traditionally focused on homeless veterans. The issue of homeless veterans in Western New York is growing larger, as more men return from the military with the invisible wounds of stress and trauma that prevent them from leading normal lives.
At this year’s Stand Down event, both homeless and nonhomeless veterans learned about the different programs and services — from housing to health care to employment — available to them.
RSVP volunteers played an important role in this year's event, making sure that veterans had a pleasant and productive experience while at the Central Terminal. As the veterans entered the Terminal, they stopped at the registration table staffed by RSVP volunteers Chris Bridenbaker, and Anthony and Virginia Smaczniak. From there, the veterans entered the vast main hall, filled with display tables from over 100 nonprofit organizations and veterans agencies. RSVP volunteers Pat Matsui, Kevin Proulx, and Barbara Rubin acted as guides to ensure that the veterans found the table where they could get answers to their questions and concerns. Barbara’s husband, Stuart, along with Mike Ortman distributed sweatshirts and blankets to the veterans. Towards noon, volunteers moved into the kitchen to assist with lunch, and so each veteran could enjoy a nutritious meal.
Pat Matsui said that she and husband Kevin Proulx would definitely help out again at the Stand Down. “I think it’s a great idea to have all the services for the veterans in one place. And I enjoyed being able to volunteer in a number of different ways throughout the event.”
Mike Ortman, a former Marine, learned about the Stand Down from an e-mail sent by RSVP to his wife, RSVP volunteer Peg Ortman. At the Stand Down, Mike was assigned to help out at the booth distributing sweatshirts to the veterans. After the event, Mike was already making plans about how to make the system more efficient next year. “He’ll definitely be back to volunteer,” said Pat, “It meant a lot to him to have the chance to reach out and help his fellow veterans.”