Free health exams, clothing and job services were offered to hundreds of Connecticut veterans on Friday in Rocky Hill.
It was part of the Department of Veterans Affairs Stand Down 2018, an event held for the last three decades that brings state agencies together for 200,000 Connecticut veterans.
More than 1,000 veterans were expected to attend.
“It’s amazing. This is huge. I didn’t expect it to be so big, a lot of services here so I’m thankful to be here,” said Jeff Bizzarro, a veteran from Burlington.
Bizzarro served in the U.S. Army from 1994-1998, then in the Alaska National Guard until 2006. He said he returned from service with multiple traumatic brain injuries and PTSD. He had his service dog Annie with him at Stand Down.
“Like they say, not all wounds are visible and so what she does for me is intervenes, interrupts, and mitigates my symptoms from Post Traumatic Stress. She helps me with being in crowds like this, she keeps me grounded, she interrupts my nightmares when I have them,” Bizzarro said.
This was also the first time Colchester native Jacqueline Clements attended. She served in the U.S. Army National Guard from 2010-2018.
“I think it’s wonderful. I think we need to do more to support the people that have come back who are serving our country and I think that giving back to them is really important,” Clements said.
There were more than 100 agencies offering free food, haircuts, eye exams, dental exams, coats and socks, nutritional advice and job opportunities. The idea is to give veterans a one-stop shop where they can learn more about the programs they may qualify for as well as help transitioning back into civilian life.
Daryl Shealy was working hard to find job leads. “A couple of people already told me they would give me call-backs. So I am crossing my fingers.”
Stand Down 2018 is at the Department of Veterans Affairs at 287 West Street in Rocky Hill from 8am-2pm. The department also offers year-round support to veterans and their families here.