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Veterans Benefits Expo targets homeless and at risk veterans

MORRIS -- During the Vietnam War, troops would pull back to a safe retreat during combat operations to stand down.

During a stand down, soldiers had the chance to take care of necessities – get a haircut, eat a hot meal, collect and send mail and relax in a safe and secure environment.

Since 1988, advocates for homeless veterans have used the concept of a stand down to organize events to provide a range of services for veterans in need in one place.

Next Friday, Oct. 11, veterans advocates from Stevens and Pope Counties have organized their own version of a stand down, a Veterans Benefits Expo, at the Morris National Guard Armory.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. next Friday, veterans-related service providers will gather “so that veterans can get a multitude of answers at one time,” said said Hugh Reimers, veterans services officer for Stevens and Pope Counties.

“We’re trying to bring as many services – whether they’re government or private – for veterans to one location,” he said.

At the expo, military veterans of all ages can learn about employment opportunities, housing and shelter information, drug and alcohol treatment, mental health counseling, family counseling, education assistance, medical assistance, legal assistance, and information about a host of other programs to assist veterans.

One of the major goals of the event, said Reimers, is to connect with veterans who are homeless, jobless, or at risk in any way. By holding the event at the Armory, organizers hope that veterans who are hesitant about accessing services will feel more comfortable learning about what benefits are available to them.

The expo will also include free haircuts for veterans who are interested and a free lunch for all veterans who attend.

For more information about the expo or to arrange transportation from Pope County, contact Veterans Advocate Kayci Wendland at 320-634-5742. For transportation in Stevens County, contact Hugh Reimers at 320-208-6555.