Duluth Veteran StandDown Bigger than Ever

Posted at: 08/23/2013 3:43 PM | Updated at: 08/23/2013 5:11 PM
By: Alan Hoglund
ahoglund@wdio.com

An event now nearly two decades old is continuing to grow in Duluth. Not only are more veterans showing up for help, more organizations are stepping up to make sure they get it.

Hundreds of veterans and more than 50 service providers crammed into the Depot Friday for the 2013 Duluth StandDown. For the first time it was so big the event spilled onto Michigan Street.

The Duluth StandDown is 19 years old, according to Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans Regional Director Steve Saari. It started in Duluth two years after the event first came to the state in Minneapolis. He said it has grown so much it may need to be held in the DECC in 2014.

At the events, veterans come to get legal help, free haircuts, clothes, books and blankets among other things. But Eyewitness News saw some services at this year's event for the first time.

Three horses in Michigan Street are meant to be therapeutic, Saari said. "They bring in comfort for those who may have PTSD, anxiety or depression."

The horses belong to Glen Wright of Lost Path Stables near International Falls. He said "just being around the horses is very therapeutic for some of the military."

With 26 horses, Wright said he has been traveling to get to the standdowns for five years. "We just keep getting a little farther and a little farther out."

Wright said he allows veterans to come stay at his ranch free for a few days to work with the horses, but few take him up on the offer.

Also new at this year's standdown was a massage booth. Sandy McLeod from the Tranquility Salon and Day Spa in Cloquet gave free massages to veterans. She said "some of the clients are hesitant, they've never gotten a massage before...but it has been received very well."

Saari said "it's [massages] something homeless or in crisis veterans are not going to be paying for for themselves."

MACV held its first standdown in Virginia Thursday. About 115 veterans attended.

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