Stand Down is a “community-based intervention program designed to help the nation’s estimated 200,000 homeless veterans ‘combat’ life on the streets.” In the case of a number of veterans in Merritt Island, Fla., the forests and parks have become their homes.
“The homeless population of U.S. veterans is growing daily,” said Lance Armstrong, D.C. (Davenport ’96), of Cocoa Beach. “With our favorable weather, Florida is somewhat inundated with them. Stand Down gives them a chance to come in from their camps in the trees, receive new clothing (from undergarments to boots), camping supplies, food, showers and general hygiene, dental care (when available) and chiropractic care. They are also given the means to communicate with the V.A. and their own family members.”
According to Dr. Armstrong, the chiropractic coordinator for the local organization, “‘stand down’ was a military term first coined during the Vietnam War, when officers recognized over-worked units in combat. They would pull them back for rest, supply them with needed services and new equipment, and get them ready for their return to battle.”
But it’s not just during wartime when a soldier needs to stand down. Sadly, thousands of veterans need to “stand down” every day.
Ten years ago, there was only one annual Stand Down event near Dr. Armstrong. Now there are six annual events held in five different locations across the 73-mile long Brevard County.
In November 2011, Dr. Armstrong saw a record number of 120 veteran patients in seven hours. He knew he had to get help. So he approached Palmer College’s Florida Campus—specifically Clinic Director Shane Carter, D.C., and President Peter Martin, D.C. Since then, Palmer’s student interns have had the opportunity to adjust the veterans by assisting with Stand Down.
Months ago, Director of Membership & Business Development Julie Clover )with Community Credit Union (CCU) in Merritt Island, Fla.), learned about Dr. Armstrong’s efforts with Stand Down, and she was so moved by his volunteer work that she wanted to award him the CCU Hometown Hero Award. When Ms. Clover offered the award (which comes with a $200 gift), Dr. Armstrong asked her to consider giving it to the Doctor of Chiropractic student interns from Palmer’s Florida Campus who volunteer with him.
After Ms. Clover approached the CCU’s board of trustees, she no longer had the $200 to offer. “She asked me if $1,500 would work out,” said Dr. Armstrong. “I was in shock. My appreciation was beyond belief.”
The donation is being used to purchase two portable adjusting tables and gas station gift cards to help with the cost of driving an hour away from campus to the site and back.
“I am proud to see the College taking the torch,” said Dr. Armstrong. “My dream is to see chiropractors volunteer at Stand Down in their states and nationwide.”
Photo: Dr. Armstrong (right) with veterans and student interns at Stand Down.