Today was the 18th annual Healthy Cities Health Fair and Veterans Stand Down at the Wayne Township Trustee’s Office. I had to stop at my work before I went to the Trustee’s Office, so I drove by the Trustee’s Office on my way to see how many people were already in line. I expected that there would already be quite a few.

At 9:10 a.m., the line already stretched into the parking lot – the rain was cold and drizzling down. Many were standing in line without umbrellas or hats. Children accompanied the adults. I immediately felt a pang of sadness to see so many who were in need of care.

I arrived at about 9:30 a.m., and I spent several hours assisting and directing veterans and others to find the proper rooms for the medical care they needed. The medical care is always located in the Trustee’s Office with the clothing and the food located out in a huge tent put up for the event. The clothing is divided into two sections with one section for non-veterans and the other section for veterans.

Many of those in need were Burmese. Fort Wayne has the largest concentration of pro-democracy Burmese dissidents in the United States. The Burmese population numbers about 3,000. Aided by Catholic Charities and other refugee-assistance groups, they began moving to Fort Wayne in large numbers after a pro-democracy uprising in Burma was put down in 1988 by the ruling military junta.

Photo Credit: Burmaissues.org


We had only a few translators to help the Burmese, and I would imagine that there aren’t too many in the City who have bi-lingual skills when it comes to speaking Burmese.


A stand down is a suspension and relaxation from an alert state or a state of readiness. In times of war, exhausted combat units requiring time to rest and recover were removed from the battlefields to a place of relative security and safety. Today, Stand Down refers to a grassroots, community-based intervention program designed to help the nation’s estimated 200,000 homeless veterans “combat” life on the streets.

The hand up, not a handout philosophy of Stand Down is carried out through the work of thousands of volunteers and numerous organizations throughout the nation. The first Stand Down was organized in 1988 by a group of Vietnam veterans in San Diego. Since then, Stand Downs have been used as an effective tool in reaching out to homeless veterans, reaching more than 200,000 veterans and their family members between 1994-2000.

The fact that the Stand Down began in San Diego doesn’t surprise me because I have been to San Diego a couple of times when my second youngest son was in the Navy. I had flown out the first time with my youngest son to attend the graduation of my son who was completing his “boot camp.” His girlfriend at the time also joined us. As we toured some of the streets, a veteran with a backpack came up to us. He began to talk to us, and he continued to talk to me, in particular, as we walked across the street.

He was a Vietnam veteran, and he was homeless. When we reached the other side, he gave me a hug and thanked me for talking to him. I think it unnerved my sons. Maybe they thought he was going to hurt me or something, but I wasn’t afraid. It sounds silly, but I feel a real connection to veterans, in general, and to those who served in Vietnam, in particular – my generation.

Photo credit: Dept. of Veterans Affairs – Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

Every year I have worked at the event, I come home with such an appreciation for all I have. And, I come home angry – angry at a system that has the means to provide health care for all but is too greed driven to provide it.

Almost 47 million Americans were without health care in 2005. Health care costs are far higher in the United States than in any other advanced nation, whether measured in total dollars spent, as a percentage of the economy, or on a per capita basis. And health costs here have been rising significantly faster than the overall economy or personal incomes for more than 40 years.

But health care isn’t the only issue addressed at the Fair and Stand Down. The participants also are provided a hot meal of a number of selections. Something so simple, most of us never think about the importance of food. Yet, we live in a society that throws away tons of food a day. According to the USDA, just over a quarter of the country’s food – about 25.9 million tons – gets thrown in the garbage can every year. There is no justification for this much waste. It is inexcusable and unacceptable.

So, another year down, and another year of wondering how on earth we can justify the lack of health care for those in need and the homeless who still roam our streets and sleep under bridges. I will go back again next year, and I will again be reminded just how much I have for which I am thankful.


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Agriculture and Food Production, Fort Wayne, Veterans Administration and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Cara says:

    Charlotte, Thank you for a most enlightening article on Stand Down. I’d like to share a cup of coffee and an idea or two. Do you have time in the next couple of weeks?

  2. the reason that America wastes so much food is 2 fold. first- the insurance corporations. if any supermarket, restaurant, fast food joint, etc even wanted to donate to a food gathering/redistributing agency; they are usualy not allowed due to liability insurance regulations. Instead of a signature on a liability release form.
    even if a supermarket/faast food/restaurant/etc could convince their insurance agent of the charitable writeoff/tax credit/ whatever- the local health department nazis wont allow these places to send still good edible food; due to “health codes/regulations.
    I have watched grocery stores/restaurants/fast food /etc throw out tons of perfectly good food- donuts. vegetables. fruits. even meat,poultry/chicken- cooked- baked-broiled, but stilll edible.
    I learned in the boy scouts, military survival escape/evasion; and working in the food service business- that most food thrown out, may not meet the highest standards of agribultural quality, but its still got some more shelf life left.
    meat/etc -you need to be more careful- check thats its still cool to the touch, smells ok, doesnt have any visible flaws, etc.
    but for the most part- if there was a way for the local food service businesses to acquire these “table scraps”- to help the poor- there would be a lot less hungry people in America.
    Ditto for community gardens, or even “tenant gardens”- such as the omnisource lot on n. clinton, and others. Or citizens offering to “farm” their neighbors gardens, or vacant lots (son to be 3000 of them in FTW.
    and the food producing industry would likely not see a decrease in their sales, or revenues. they would get tax credits, charitible deductions, and the persons who are “dumster diving” dont have enough money to buy everything they need.
    food stamps only go so far- if you qualify. food banks are overburdened anyway.
    If you look at it as “hunting”, or simply living off the waste, and fat of the land- foraging, gahtering, etc, then its ok.
    I’ve never seen anybody i know while out on these scavanger hunts.
    Its all part of living like its the depression- because it soon may be again.
    so forget your pride. dont go hungry- check out your local dumpsters- you may be glad you did.
    warning- do not attempt if you dont know what you are doing.
    I’ve never been food poisoned by produce, or anything else yet.
    trained professional. its a dirty job, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
    always enjoy your blog, BSB.

  3. Ice ironman says:

    David. Interesting, sounds like you are prepared for hard times. I have prepared my family, in a different way. I have stocked ammo. I have stocked food. I have stocked everyday items that will be necissary. I have taught the kids how to live off of the land. I feel bad for the folks too upity to hunt, or to ignorant to grow their own food. But veggies only store so long. I think the vegitarians in NY city and San Fran will drop to their knees to eat meat if things get as bad as the depression. After all, vegitarianism is a state of luxury.

  4. Clint:

    You have got to be kidding – vegetarianism a state of luxury. In case you haven’t done your research, only wealthy nations can afford a meat-based diet.

    Feeding out meat animals is at the top of the energy pyramid.


    “Veggies only store so long.” And so does meat unless it is processed. So both items can be processed and stored for lengths of time.

    Uppity to hunt? Maybe we don’t want to hunt and slaughter animals. That isn’t uppity, that is simply a preference.

  5. Ice ironman says:

    I knew that one would get ya. If you have not stored food (vegtables)it would be much harder to sustain a family of 6 without meat.

    Meat consumption increases based on the economy of a nation. However, pretty much any country eats meat.

    I guess those nomads that followed the bison and other pack animals like caribou must have been filthy rich.

    And yes it is a luxury to be a vegitarian. I just think of a situation where things are hard and a vegitarian starving while the rest of the folks around her/him are eating meat. Where are all of the city folks going to grow these veggies, much less store them? Meat keeps itself in the form of living animals over the harsh winters, no need to store or prep it.

  6. Clint:

    In what situation would the starvation occur? Alaska? Siberia? In the lower 48 states, vegetables and foraged items are always in supply – many items that most people wouldn’t think about eating.

    I have a few books on foraging – my favorite is Wild Man Steve Brill’s book – here is the website:


    Meat doesn’t keep once it is slaughtered. It has to be processed in some way to preserve it. Veggies also have to be processed to keep for any amount of time.

    Your comments about keeping meat over the Winter only apply if you kill and eat something every day. I imagine there would be quite a bit of waste to that practice, unless you plan to eat an entire deer in one day’s time.

    While many nations eat meat, the meat supply comes from sources that are not costly to produce – fish for example.

    As a country builds wealth, its diet changes. For some reason – I don’t understand it myself – wealth breeds the desire to eat more unhealthy meat products. Maybe it’s an attempt to show off – hey look at me, I have money now, so I will eat a bunch of red meat.

  7. Ice ironman says:

    I think its because meat is yummy!

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