BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It's a day to show homeless veterans that their country appreciates their service and is willing to help when times get hard. On Wednesday at the Stand Down For Veterans, hundreds of veterans got supplies to help get them through the frigid temperatures this winter.
Volunteers at the Biloxi VA sorted through jackets, hats, socks, and boots to find just the right sizes for hundreds of former Marines, soldiers, and airmen who have fallen on hard times. Some homeless veterans said in this struggling economy, what's hard to find is a job.
"It's hard during this day and time with the economy the way it is," said Donald Dillon, a former Marine. "With the jobs being the way it is, it's hard for people to get out and do job searches. To try to find means of living."
Former Marine McNel Lewis said, "I appreciate that people are recognizing veterans. I was in during the Vietnam war. It's the whole thing that we're just destitute right now.
Army Veteran Ronald Grasty said, "It's rough but with the VA programs, they're really doing a lot of help for us."
Stand Down organizers said their main concern was giving homeless vets the gear to survive the winter.
"Biloxi is in the Gulf Coast area. The temperature is mild, so therefore we have more veterans that come here, especially during the winter because they can survive here," said Susan Turner, Healthcare For The Homeless Coordinator. "Where in the northern areas they have a hard time surviving. So today we're all about the veterans who served our country and making sure they have cold weather gear, and sleep wear and sleeping bags to make sure they don't freeze to death. "
It was also a day of fun. The vets get the royal treatment.
"Today's the day for the homeless veteran to feel special," Turner said. "As you can see we have people doing massages from Blue Cliff College. We have nursing here giving flu shots. We have a dermatologist that donated his time to do skin cancer scans, because they're out in the sun a lot, to make sure they don't have stage four cancer. "
The vets said the Stand Down lets them know they are not alone.
"That shows that we're cared for. Because a lot of time we'll be out on the streets and we feel like nobody even cares about us,"said Lewis.
Turner said, "There by the grace of God go any one of us. If I were out of a paycheck for three months, it would be very close to being homeless for me. So it could happen to any of us."
VA officials said about 500 veterans came to the event.