'Homeless Veterans Stand Down' event gives vets a hand up

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Adam Kilgore’s current address is not a number.

“I’m currently homeless, I’m a vet living under a bridge, and I’m having some problems getting housing,” Kilgore said.

The Army veteran served six years, but Thursday, it was volunteers who were serving him. He, alongside his service dog Daisy Mae, was just one of dozens attending the homeless veterans support event, called “Veterans Stand Down.”

Stand Down brings state, federal, and private agencies together to provide veterans with medical screenings, eye and hearing exams, help with housing, jobs, education, and legal matters and other services.

In military parlance, units "stand down" when they come in from the field to rest, clean equipment, and get a hot meal.

Lee Ellzey with Career Source Gulf Coast has been a part of this event for ten years.

“We try to provide services and resources for them so that they can use [them] immediately," Ellzey said. "We’re talking about people that don’t necessarily have some place to store their belongings at night. We’re providing them backpacks, and as they walk through the area, they’re able to put some of the resources we’ve provided in those backpacks to carry with them."

That includes items like jackets, hats, toiletries and towels; backpacks filled to the brim with some help of active duty members who are paired with veterans.

Joshua Underwood, who currently serves in the U.S. Navy, was paired with veteran Richard Spanos.

“This, to me, is the most important part about serving in the military, is selfless devotion to the people who sacrificed their lives for us to even be here today," Underwood said. "If it wasn’t for what he did years ago, I wouldn’t be here today. And so this is a blessing to me.”

And it was just as much a blessing for Kilgore, who says there’s sometimes a misconception of homeless vets.

“People see someone who’s homeless and say, 'Oh, it’s a vagrant, leave them alone,'" he said. "Or, 'They’re just wanting a handout instead of a hand-up.' A lot of the times, that’s not the case."

What is evident, is a symbol of service-members helping other service-members

“In my eyes, there’s no generational gap – we’re all one family as a military, past and present,” Underwood said.