COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The shift from service back to civilian life can be a challenge for many veterans, but finding the necessary help can sometimes be even harder.

On Tuesday, dozens of volunteers and organizations helped to make that transition a little easier as winter approaches.

“I think it’s nice. I had a veteran in my own family,” said Accacia Jackson, a senior at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School, as well as a member of the OH-871 Air Force ROTC cadets.

Even though Jackson was too young to know that member of her family, as a cadet, preparing to serve herself has been a personal evolution.

“I used to be very shy and now I’m outspoken,” Jackson said. “And I get to, like, help a lot more people now. I’ve heard stories from all around the world.”

Jackson led dozens of other fellow cadets from Fort Hayes who volunteer each year at Central Ohio Veteran Stand Down.

“I’ve never seen young people — sophomores, juniors, and seniors — stand so straight in those uniforms, and they act as personal concierges to for our guests that need support as they go through our program,” Dan Willis, executive director for Central Ohio Veterans Stand Down, said.

Stand Downs started in San Diego back in 1987 and has since grown to locations all across the country.
For veterans like Randall Jackson, the event serves as a connection to resources like winter clothes, legal aid, jobs and academics.

“It’s hard to fit back in, sometimes,” Jackson, a retired United States Army veteran, said. “It’s just different. You have to get back into society.”

In addition to the cadets from Fort Hayes, students from Oak Stone Academy in Westerville performed the National Anthem. Students from Jones Middle School in Upper Arlington wrote personal notes to veterans that were attached to boxes of Girl Scout Cookies.

“We’re really glad to have these different groups of students understand the value of veterans in their community, and how they can help,” Willis said.

With more than 100 service providers on hand, Willis said that the event is just one of the many ways organizers hope to help raise back up central Ohio’s own veterans.

“We are here to provide solutions for veterans — either directly or indirectly — so that it improves the quality of their life,” Willis said. “Because a strong veteran makes for a strong community.”

Central Ohio Veteran Stand Down is one of five Stand Downs across the state. Organizers are expected to serve up to 500 or more veterans throughout the day on Tuesday.

For a list of future Stand Down events or for information on how to get involved, click here.