Saturday, July 10, 2010

Operation Stand Down: feel good connections

Recently, i entered an explanation of why this site and my current status is bringing changes along with what is a radical poem for me. Primarily because of Walker Hicks, all of my site is back up and accessible after the site was hacked about six weeks ago.

Operation Stand Down: feel good connections

SAN DIEGO –Independence Day weekend was a whirlwind of activities in the Southwest corner, yet allowing time for reflection on the reason behind the holiday.
Before the July 4th weekend celebrations, the “Democrat” ran Hilda Trenda’s story about last Friday’s “Cruise-In” at the Snow White Drive-In. In my head, it all fit together.

Cruise-In generated donations to Gerald’s Fund, which in turn supports Operation Stand Down, a program to assist homeless veterans in Middle Tennessee. Stand Down has it roots in the Southwest corner.

The original Stand Down began in 1988 in San Diego under the auspices of the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego (VVSD). The founders, Richard Talbot, Van Keuren, and Dr. Jon Nachison wanted to provide coordinated, comprehensive services to homeless veterans over a three-day period.

Stand Down Connections

Stand Down’s 22nd edition will occur here, July 16-18. My youngest daughter Sarah is attempting to arrange her schedule to allow her to volunteer as she has done before. Two of the primary coordinators of this year’s event are Rod Stark and Darcy Pavich.
Rod is one of my constant golfing partners and came within an eyelash of reading my retirement speech at my Navy ceremony the day my daughter was born in November 1989 (I barely made it to the ceremony before Sarah was born later that evening).

Darcy is the wife of another golfing buddy, Al Pavich, who shared a stateroom with me on a Western Pacific deployment in 1981. We have been close friends ever since.

When Al retired from the Navy in the mid-1990s, he became the CEO of VVSD and was the figurehead and major driver of the Stand Down program until his second retirement in 2008. Al molded VVSD into a model for the rest of the country and brought the physical site to a modern, state-of-the-art facility (in 2005, the name was changed to Veterans Village of San Diego to signify it’s purpose was not limited to Vietnam era vets).

Currently, VVSD provides services for more than 2000 veterans every year. VVSD’s program to assist homeless veterans obtain a job and a place to live a normal life has been declared the most successful program of its sort in the country.

Stand Down is the most visible program in VVSD’s success story. This year’s Stand Down will provide much needed help for more than 900 homeless veterans and their family members.

Birdy Connections

There are more connections. To me, the Snow White Drive-In is a Lebanon landmark. I frequented the burgers-and-ice-cream version throughout my sojourn at Castle Heights, Vanderbilt, and Middle Tennessee. After it became one of the best Middle Tennessee barbeque sources, I ate its fare on every return to my hometown.

Then, there is the connection of Sandra Edmonds and her mother, Ann Birdwell, the current owner of the Snow White.

I do not know either but I did know Everett Birdwell, Ann’s husband and Sandra’s stepfather. I knew him as Birdy. His previous wife who has since passed away was known as Cat, and they operated Winfree’s Restaurant on West Main. Winfree’s started as a family restaurant, where my family would occasionally go to Sunday dinner after church.

When I was working at WCOR, I would frequently go to Winfree’s to mix with Cat and Birdy while playing shuffle board until closing time. Birdy was a delight with a booming voice and great smile.

So after the “Cruise-In” at the Snow White back home and during my frenzy of activities in the Southwest corner through the holidays, I paused on Sunday and connected it all to the meaning of Independence Day.

While there were parties, parades, picnics, and concerts to enjoy, they all contained a more serious connection to our country’s forefathers stepping up to the plate and forming the greatest country in the history of the planet. The festivities also honored activity duty and veterans of the military who have put it all on the line, many with the ultimate sacrifice.

It is good Sandra Edmunds, Ann Birdwell, others in Lebanon, as well as my friends in the Southwest corner are contributing more than just nice thoughts about the meaning of Independence Day by helping veterans in need.

Those are some very good connections, indeed.

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