There had been several Stand Downs in Knoxville in the 1990s but none on a sustained basis until George Sexton, a member of the Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Detachment of the Marine Corps League (MCL) in Knoxville, and his wife, Connie, a member of the MCL Auxiliary, attended an Operation Stand Down event in Nashville in 1999. George and Connie returned from the Nashville event really charged up about the possibility of having such an event in Knoxville and then persuaded the MCL Detachment to sponsor it. After the MCL contacted other veterans organizations and agencies with an interest in helping homeless vets to get their support, the organizers incorporated in Tennessee as a state-tax exempt, non-profit organization and with the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit charitable 501(c)(3) organization. Since our first Stand Down was scheduled for the year 2000, we incorporated under the name “Knoxville Area Millennium Stand Down.”
Our first Stand Down was held in the late fall of 2000 at the National Guard Armory on Sutherland Avenue in Knoxville, which is the home of the Army National Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment. It was a three-day, two-night, event that attracted more than 120 homeless veterans, who were brought on buses provided by the Air National Guard’s 134th Air Re-fueling Wing to the Armory from a number of collection points around the Knoxville area. The Tennessee State Guard provided security throughout the event. During the Stand Down, volunteers from the Remote Area Medical Foundation provided medical, dental and eye exams as well as other medical services. Personnel from the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs provided veterans benefits counseling while personnel from other organizations provided housing counseling, job counseling, substance abuse counseling, and other services. Volunteer barbers cut the vets’ hair and other volunteers prepared and served delicious hot food to the vets and to the volunteers. Entertainment was provided both evenings. Just before they left the Stand Down, the vets were issued clothing to help get them through the winter.
Since that first event, a Stand Down event has been held almost every year, with some being single-day events and others being multi-day events. The Stand Downs have been held in several different locations, including the Knoxville Area Red Cross Building, the Navy-Marine Corps Reserve Center, the Community Center of the Cokesbury United Methodist Church, and the Knoxville Convention Center. The one-day Stand Down on 15 May 2009 was again held at the National Guard Armory.
ALL VETERANS Stand Down has no paid staff – everyone connected to the Stand Down is a volunteer. Every penny donated to the Stand Down goes to support ALL homeless and At-Risk Veterans.