Free services for vets at Standdown
After a stint in the Army during the Vietnam War, Bobby Peek is still fighting the good fight.
Electric clippers, a pair of scissors and a comb.
“I go anywhere that I’m called,” said Peek, as he snipped locks off fellow Vietnam vet Douglas Dement’s head. “It’s an honor to be here guys,” Peek said from the comfort of a pull-along trailer he hauled from Sacramento to the Nevada County Fairgrounds for the annual Veterans Standdown, which concludes Sunday.
Veterans at the event are eligible for social and legal services, dental examinations, free food and clothing, and housing assistance.
A few of them came Friday for a free clip, shave and some repartee with Peek, who owns a brick-and-mortar barbershop in Roseville.
His trailer includes two leather barber chairs, a sink and a lighted vanity. In a small waiting area of makeshift couches, veterans reminisce about their service.
“If it wasn’t for these guys, we might be speaking German or Japanese right now,” said Peek, who served on classified missions from 1965 to 1967.
Friday’s crowds were sparse for many of the services offered under huge canvas tents. Public relations chairman and Vietnam vet Mike Hurley said he hoped to reverse that today, when free dental exams are scheduled and Superior Court judge Ersel Edwards will help veterans with outstanding legal affairs.
Of the 14,000 veterans in Nevada County, Hurley said he expected about 300 to show up for free services and a chance to strengthen their military bonds.
“Some of these veterans are just afraid of society,” said Pat Rash, who served at the Norfolk Naval Air Station from 1961 to 1964.
Army veteran Bill Meehan of Rancho Cordova, a caregiver for a World War II vet, stopped by Friday to collect free shirts, jackets and flannel overcoats from three overflowing bins.
Meehan isn’t ashamed of his year in the Army, from which he was discharged in 1978.
“I wish I could do it all over again. There’s a lot of camaraderie with other veterans,” he said, adding he wished he could serve now as President Bush considers military action against Iraq.
“We should have taken (Iraq leader Saddam Hussein) out the first time,” he said, alluding to the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
On the last day of the 2001 Standdown, veterans listened in earnest as loudspeakers blared news of U.S. troops’ arrival in Afghanistan. This year, the stakes are the same, Meehan said.
“I would support (an invasion) if they finish the job.”
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