2017-05-25 / Front Page

Operation Stand Down Busy in Newport

By Brooke Constance White

The "Boots on the Ground" memorial will be on display at Roger Williams Park from May 26 to 29 with a patriotic concert on Sunday, May 28 at 6:30 p.m. (Contributed photo) The "Boots on the Ground" memorial will be on display at Roger Williams Park from May 26 to 29 with a patriotic concert on Sunday, May 28 at 6:30 p.m. (Contributed photo) Since Operation Stand Down opened its Newport office three years ago, more than a thousand Newport County veterans have received a range of life-changing service such as stable housing, steady jobs and employment training. In 2016 alone, the nonprofit organization served nearly 600 Newport area veterans.

Operation Stand Down prides itself on offering a hand up, not a hand out, Brian Sullivan, association director of veteran outreach, said in his Broadway office.

“We’re all about combatting homelessness in veterans and have developed into a larger organization that also helps veterans find gainful employment,” he said.

Operation Stand Down, which is headquartered in Johnston, first started in 1993 as a weekend-long encampment once a year in Exeter where social service organizations would come to provide the attending veterans with assistance and aid. Today, it’s that and so much more. With offices in Westerly, West Warwick, Johnston and Newport along with 88 of its own transitional and permanent housing units of varying sizes, which are rented out to veterans and their families, the growing organization serves thousands of veterans throughout the state each year.

With the Navy base so close by, Sullivan, who served on active duty with U.S. Army National Guard for 34 years obtaining the rank of Master Sergeant, said he’s been pleased with the success of their efforts in Newport County.

“We’ve worked with other organizations and it’s truly been a successful endeavor to be here on the ground in Newport,” he said.

Along with housing and job procurement, the organization provides individualized services and helps veterans manage debt, find legal support, procure bus passes, negotiate with potential landlords, pay housing security deposits, find childcare and navigate the Veterans Af.fairs system.

Many veterans come home from a deployment and their family, income and mental status have likely all changed, Sullivan said.

“A lot of the vets we see go off to war and come back and find that their world at home is falling apart. They can’t find a job or housing and might have PTSD,” he said. “We want to be their advocates and try to get them all the benefits they qualify for. We don’t just talk the talk here, we actually walk the walk.”

To commemorate Memorial Day, the organization is hosting its second “Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial” over the weekend at Roger Williams Park by the Temple to Music. Approximately 7,000 military boots with flags and name placards will be lined up to mark the sacrifice of the brave men and women nationwide who’ve given their lives for the nation’s freedom since Sept. 11, 2001.

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