A line of veterans wrapped around the VFW Hall.
Inside, hundreds of volunteers were ready to assist those in need, like Scott Houghton, an Army veteran who sought cold-weather gear.
“I camp out,” said Houghton, who wanted to pick up a tent, sleeping bag, ground cover and other items to prepare for the likelihood of spending much time outdoors this winter.
Houghton was among more than 400 veterans who received help at the Summit County Stand Down for Homeless and Displaced Veterans at the Firestone VFW Post 3383 on West Waterloo Road. The event coincided with the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
Houghton said he never expected to end up living on the edge, often at camp sites, when he entered the Army out of Field High School at the age of 17.
“I thought life would be a breeze,” he said.
The event was sponsored by the Summit County Veterans Council, and coordinated by Summit County Veterans Service Organizations and Auxiliaries, the Summit County Veterans Service Commission, the Akron VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic and Summit County social service agencies.
Volunteer Kelle Buell worked with Vietnam-era veteran Gordon Jones, 62, of Akron.
“There aren’t words to describe doing this,” said Buell, 37, a Stark State College nursing student. “It is an honor because they risked their lives for us.”
Jones, a retired rotary operator, said he was very appreciative of the help he received.
“It’s great,” he said.
Debbie Grof, 50, a barber at Acree’s Barber Shop on Kenmore Boulevard, said offering free haircuts to vets was her way of saying thank you to them.
“My dad was a veteran,” the Canal Fulton resident said.
Veterans picked from tables of clothing and gear and were offered a wide variety of medical exams as well.
Edie Deyarmin was at a table representing the Deyarmin Foundation, a nonprofit set up after the death of her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Nathan Deyarmin Jr., 22, in August 2005 in Iraq. She handed out more than 350 hooded sweatshirts to veterans.
She said people in America have no idea how much many of the nation’s veterans need.
“It’s a big problem the public doesn’t know about,” she said.
“America needs to wake up,” said Deyarmin, whose organization raises money — about $180,000 since her son’s death — at an annual memorial run in his name in Tallmadge. The funds help disabled/disadvantaged veterans and their families.
She said seven years after her son’s death, it is still difficult.
“It gets more bearable or more livable, but I wouldn’t say easier,” she said.
Laura Dunlop, 81, an Army Korean War veteran and chairwoman of this year’s Stand Down, said she had to turn away nearly 70 volunteers because the had reached the limit of 409.
“Isn’t it terrible when you have to turn them down?” she said.
She said while there were many veterans in attendance who are homeless, others only needed a helping hand or wanted to spend time with other veterans.
“Some are here to enjoy the camaraderie of other veterans,” she said.
She urged people who want to help out for next years’s event to mark their calendars for March 4, 2013, for a 2 p.m. meeting to sign up volunteers.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.