Bouncing from treatment centers to hotels, Steve Carlson has battled the same demons that afflict many veterans: chemical dependency, unemployment, post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression.
He has been in and out of treatment centers five times since he returned from the Vietnam War in 1969. Currently, he is receiving treatment at the Veterans Hospital in Minneapolis and lives at a veterans camp in Forest Lake, Minn.
Carlson is among the 500 volunteers at Minnesota Standdown 2000, an annual event that runs through Sunday on the West Bank that provides veterans with relief from the everyday struggles they encounter. The event is expected to draw more than 1,000 veterans.
“I really like to get involved in (Standdown) because you see so much good,” said Carlson, who suffered from two gunshot wounds during his service in the Navy from 1965 to 1969.
For the eighth straight year, Minnesota Standdown volunteers provide veterans with free medical, housing, financial and legal services. Funded by state veterans organizations, the event costs about $150,000.
Honorary chairman, Rep. Bruce Vento, D-Minn., will speak at the event today at 3 p.m., along with Miss America 2000 Heather French. Gov. Jesse Ventura will also broadcast his weekly radio show from the campsite.
Filled with veterans from around the state, the site is split into two camps, both sides occupied by old army tents. On the west side, tents house the needed services for the veterans. Tents on the other side, filled with cots, serve as the veterans’ sleeping corridors.
Upon entering the site, veterans sit down with a volunteer who takes their blood pressure and pulse. They fill out a questionnaire, listing their problems and services they need.
After the exam, volunteers refer the veterans to the appropriate tents for extra help.
Judy Hubal, Minnesota Standdown vice president, said the point of the event is to give the veterans the help they need to solve their problems so they can get back on their feet.
After check-in, veterans can take a shower, get a haircut, find some new clothes and get reacquainted with old friends. Many are also screened for the blood virus hepatitis C, along with sexually transmitted diseases.
The Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans processed more than 40 people suspected of having hepatitis C Thursday at the event.
“It’s a time for a reunion for a lot of us,” said Bill Lindboe, president of Minnesota Standdown.
But most importantly, the event provides a home for the veterans and a place where people care for them, said Lindboe, who is also a veteran.
“During Standdown, everybody who doesn’t have a home has one during these four days,” he said. “Here they can experience the community at every level.”
The event provides tents and cots for veterans and their families.
Minnesota Standdown also has a legal aide service, with two courtrooms that will be running all day.
The courts processed more than 200 cases last year at Standdown, ranging from tax evasion and DWIs to problems with paying child support.
Event organizers aim to help veterans, some who have been living on the run as a result of legal trouble, return to a normal life as quickly as possible.
“They can get a bunch of legal issues taken care of and a guy can walk out of there able to face life again,” Hubal said.
Patrick Hayes welcomes comments at [email protected]