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June 7, 2013

Luke Airmen join Arizona StandDown, helps homeless vets

Senior Airman Alex Lopez, 56th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster, unloads a van full of supplies and food May 9 at the Marine, Army, Navy, Air Force House. The MANA House provides tools and resources to homeless veterans in need of assistance.

Members of Luke Air Force Base joined to help homeless veterans in the state during the 12th annual Arizona StandDown.

The Arizona StandDown is a nonprofit organization and is the largest homeless outreach event in Arizona. In 2012 more than 1,290 at-risk veterans benefitted from the event.

This year is the first time Flagstaff was included in the outreach. Hygiene kits were assembled by Luke members and sent to be distributed to homeless veterans in the area.

Staff Sgt. Stephen Kovach, 56th Operations Support Squadron weather forecaster, led the way by teaming with the Madison Street Veterans’ Association to get the kits to those who needed them.

“I found it unacceptable when I contacted them that we weren’t helping out in any way,” Kovach said. “I just wanted to reach out to my brothers and sisters in arms.”

Even though he was on convalescent leave, Kovach made the trip to Flagstaff to deliver the kits himself.

“I think the take-away from this is that our generation gets all these benefits when we out-process,” he said. “When these guys separated from the military they didn’t have much guidance and so they may not know about the help that exists today.”

Kovach also assisted by delivering other goods to the transitional housing facility known as MANA House, which stands for Marine, Army, Navy, Air Force, that helps veterans transition from homelessness to permanent housing.

According to the MANA House website, they provide 53 veterans with everything they need to get back on their feet such as hot meals, transportation and clothing.

Corey Harris, MANA House government and community relations coordinator, said it’s acts like these that allow organizations like the MANA House to be successful.

“Our organization wouldn’t exist without the kind of help that you guys are offering,” he said. “It’s not just the actual help. Having the military community behind these veterans helps them build that respect and gives them the confidence to move forward and rebuild their lives.”

Antoine Motley, MANA House senior action plan advisor, said raising awareness about homeless veterans among the active-duty military is essential.

“You know, one day we are all going to be veterans and Kovach understands that and the issues veterans are facing,” Motley said. “One of the most important things I see active-duty military do is just showing up and being involved in these veterans lives. That’s really what makes a huge difference.”

For more information about the Arizona StandDown, go to www.arizonastanddown.org, and for more information about MANA House visit www.madisonstreetveterans.org.




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