Operation Stand Down Rhode Island celebrates 25 years
By: Chloe Leshner
CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WLNE) -- 70,000 veterans are living in Rhode Island, many of them in need of support services like medical, legal or housing. This weekend they can get all of that and more in one place all thanks to Operation Stand Down Rhode Island.
"Words can't really describe how we feel about it. It saved our family. It saved our lives," says Keith and Jayme Lewis, a Navy and Army veteran respectively.
Returning home from war doesn't always mean glory and for the Lewis family, adjusting to the civilian world was difficult. But when they were just hours away from being homeless, Operation Stand Down Rhode Island kept them off the street.
"It wasn't just here's a short term fix for you, here's a couple of cards, hope everything gets better. These guys were here day in day out for the last 5 years," says Mr. Lewis.
The organization has done the same and much more for thousands of veterans. all because of Tony DeQuattro.
"We got tired of seeing our brothers and sisters on the streets and in need and the government not helping them so we said what the heck we'll do it," says DeQuattro.
In 1992, the organization held its first outreach event. This weekend is its 25th and it's bigger and better than ever with 60 vendors available to provide medical, financial, legal and employment services to at–risk vets.
"A lot of veterans shy away from bureaucracy so it offers a little more of a welcoming environment here. There's a sense of camaraderie here as well," says Dee Rothermel with Operation Stand Down Rhode Island.
Veterans can share stories and get what they need in an environment that's comfortable for them.
"That's why I do this because this brings them back to a point in time when they had respect and dignity in their life, when they were in the military that's why it's set up as a military encampment," says DeQuattro.
Operation Stand Down Rhode Island also has 88 supportive housing units and an extensive employment program to help vets get back on their feet.