Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Our veterans sacrificed their lives for our country and lived to tell the tale, but sometimes, there is not much of a life for some of them to return to. To help, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and community partners held the event Operation Stand Down on Friday at Transitions in Columbia to provide services to homeless veterans.
"It's quite hard for veterans when they come home," said William Thompson, who spent six years in the Marines.
Thompson says adjusting to civilian life again can be difficult, and even worse if their military combat training is their only skill set.
"Being in war time, the only thing you learn how to do is annihilate the enemy," Thompson said. "So when you come to [the] main society, if you're not in law enforcement [or a] blue collar field... that's the only way you can exercise what you learned in the military."
Debra Williams, the supervisor for the supportive housing program at the VA, says that is the reason for Operation Stand Down.
"The men and women who have served us, who have made the commitment to defend our country are here without the supports that they need and feeling that no one cares about what's happening in their lives once they've come back home," Williams said, "that is the biggest reason we're here today."
The event gave free hot meals, clothing, hair cuts, flu shots, and housing and employment services for the veterans.
"Anything they need is provided here today," said Cindy Davis, the Assistant Chief of Social Work at the VA.
Davis says the goal is to get veterans off the street and into a home.
"They've done a lot for our country and they deserve to have these services," Davis said.
Thompson says he encourages other people to give the VA's services a try, because he is living proof that they work.
"I became homeless and decided to tap into the VA system and wow," Thompson said, "after a couple years later, God is good, my life is back on track."
Davis says one of the the VA's biggest needs right now is for landlords to join the efforts to get veterans into affordable housing.