Four Farrington High School JROTC students presented the color guard to a crowd gathered inside the McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Beach Park. More than 100 people stood at attention facing the flag as the National Anthem played in the background.
About 150 men and women who served in military uniform but are now in civilian clothes attended the Stand Down event to seek help for job placement, permanent housing and legal advice. They were treated to free pastries, coffee and live Hawaiian music. They got a bag of clothes, flu shots and brochures.
Henry Stewart got a free haircut on Wednesday.
“It feels good,” Stewart said about his new haircut. “I’d like to put my uniform back on.”
Stewart, an Air Force veteran who served from 1978-1988, attended the event to find job leads. Stewart has been staying at the U.S. VETS facility in Kapolei for the past six months.
“Guys my age, nobody is hiring us,” he said. “So it’s tough to keep a place to live and it’s tough to keep a job, and even get a job.”
James Hastings, director of Pacific Islands Health Care System for Veterans Affairs, said many veterans have a tough time transitioning back into civilian life.
“They may have difficulty getting jobs, working in society, and so they end up not being able to have the economic wherewithal to afford having a home,” Hastings said.
A Housing and Urban Development point-in-time count in January revealed a total of 505 homeless veterans across the islands. A total of 6,188 people statewide were homeless, a 6.1 percent increase from last year, according to HUD figures. Gov. Neil Abercrombie has put an emphasis on alleviating homelessness, just completing a 90-day plan. According to the 2010 Homeless Service Utilization Report, nearly 14,000 people in the state experienced homelessness and received services between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010.
Gary Francis said he is lucky to depend on his friend for temporary shelter at Queen Emma Gardens. A Vietnam War Marine combat engineer and a current architectural draftsman, the 52-year-old said he is open to changing jobs.
“I’ll take any kind of job, until I can get on my feet,” he said.
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