Tri-State Stand Down set for May

On a chilly and blustery Saturday morning in May more than 1,000 veterans and family members gathered at the Sanders County Fairgrounds in Plains, Mont., for the first ever Tri-State Veterans Stand Down.
On hand to meet with them were nearly a hundred volunteers, officials from the Veterans Administration and leaders with groups such as Wounded Warriors Project and Oath Keepers. To kick off the two day event, a hot breakfast was served.
Billy Hill, of rural Trout Creek, Mont., planned and promoted that event, which has been credited with being one of the largest such Veterans Stand Downs ever held in the state — and one of the best organized and smoothest running. Hill is now hard at work pulling things together to make the second Tri-State Veterans Stand Down even larger and more successful. The event is scheduled for May 4 and 5 — and will again be held at the Sanders County Fairground in Plains.
At the 2012 Tri-State Veterans Stand Down, more than $1 million in surplus military clothing and gear was redistributed to the veterans attending the event. The array of surplus items included boots, sleeping bags, packs and frames, insulated underwear, wool socks and blankets, pants, shirts, hi-tech polar fleece, gloves, camping gear, extreme cold weather wear and more.
According to Billy Hill, this year’s event will offer more than twice that amount of surplus wear and gear to qualifying military veterans and their family members. To qualify, a veteran simply needs to have a VA or military ID card, a copy of their discharge papers or a copy of their form DD214.
“It is the need for much of the clothing, footwear and other surplus gear that brings these vets to the Stand Down events,” Hill said. “The distribution of all that surplus gear is the incentive to pull together so many veterans in one place at one time, giving the Veterans Administration an opportunity to share with them the benefits and health services available to military veterans.”
The Thompson Falls Food Bank and the Montana Food Bank worked together at last year’s Tri-State Veterans Stand Down to distribute several hundred food baskets. Working around sequestered federal funding, an effort is now being made to be able to offer those baskets again this year. Hot meals will be served both days, and for those who have really been down on their luck and have been forced to live out in the elements, hot showers and haircuts will also be provided.
Wounded Warriors Project and Oath Keepers will also be on hand again to provide moral support and guidance to those veterans who have found it difficult to cope with post military life. Likewise, those vets seeking employment can receive some guidance and assistance at the 2013 Tri-State Veterans Stand Down.
As planned and hoped for, the 2012 event drew military veterans from Montana, Idaho and Washington. Hill feels the success of last year’s stand down will encourage others to attend this year. Hill thinks there are 4,000 to 5,000 in need who could car pool to this year’s event.
“If they do…they need to allow room for all of the great gear they’ll be taking home with them,” he said.
The 2013 Tri-State Veterans Stand Down takes place May 4 and 5, at the Sanders County Fairgrounds, located at 30 River Road in Plains, Mont. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. For information contact Billy Hill at 406- 847-2407, or 406-542-9751, or email