Stateline veterans received a helping hand in exchange for their service to the country on Friday, from clothes to free bus rides, at the Veterans’ Stand Down event.
The ‘Top of Illinois Veterans’ Stand Down’ event brought about two hundred former servicemen and women to downtown Rockford, to the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center, some to offer and some to receive a number of different services, from winter coats to Veterans Administration counseling, flu shots and a free meal.
“I come every year to get haircuts and stuff that benefits me, personal hygiene, stuff like that,” said Larry Hudson, a U.S. Army veteran.
“There’s a huge, huge need,” said Ron Sodko, President of Top of Illinois Veterans’ Stand Down. “Our veterans need help, and that’s what we are here to do. We are, I like to call ourselves ‘veterans helping veterans.'”
“Honestly, it’s all valuable,” said U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jimmy Harris. “I mean, I know people that can use everything, anything and everything they give.”
The event is a one-stop shop for veterans to meet their physical needs, but there is another reason local veterans come back year after year.
“You get to see a lot of the vets you don’t normally get to see,” Harris said.
“[They come for] the camaraderie, that’s something us veterans share amongst each other, is that brotherhood, sisterhood,” Sodko said.
For those who couldn’t make it downtown, veterans were offered free transportation from the Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD) bus.
Organizers say it’s simply a way to thank those who fought for our freedom.
“We’ve had some veterans that are homeless, some veterans that are just in need of assistance, and some that have no mode of transportation,” Sodko said.
Lisa Brown, of RMTD, said, “[We run] three or four routes that access the Mendelssohn Club, so we are there every hour and we probably have three or four vehicles hitting it up every hour. They could come in on any one of our eighteen bus routes that come downtown, and then head over to the Mendelssohn Club.”