DAV Stand Down Outreach event in Erlangen connects homeless veterans with valuable care and services
By Chris Mayhew
Disabled American Veterans
The DAV Homeless Veterans Stand Down made Brian Pinkard feel strongly connected to the veterans community and cared for despite relapsing in a lifelong battle with substance abuse.
“Even if I’m in a situation, she [DAV] don’t let me dry out there,” he said. “You do me a service, and things happen to people for some reason. You know we all need a helping hand sometimes.”
In October, more than 200 veterans received support from the Stand Down at the DAV federal headquarters in Erlangen. For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DAV conducted the annual outreach event in person.
Pinkard said he’s happy to “rub shoulders,” loosen up, and have fun with fellow veterans.
“We’re not leaving our wounded behind,” he said.
Among the volunteers at the event and dedicated attendees was National Commander Joe Parsetich, a disabled Vietnam Air Force veteran soldier.
“To my fellow brothers and sisters, it is a great honor and privilege to be here with and for you today,” Parsetich told attendees. “Each of us has put on the uniform in service to this country. No matter how you got here, we are connected as a family.”
Each participating veteran received a DAV backpack filled with personal care kits and information on other ways to help. Other service providers in the greater Cincinnati area also offered help finding jobs and housing.
“It was a glorious day,” said Parsetich. “People from across the community and from Cincinnati come here to share our warmth, hospitality and service.”
The Stand Down would not be possible without the partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers in Cincinnati and Fort Thomas, said John Kleindienst, director of National Voluntary Services.
“Thank you to the VA for helping us provide participants with much-needed resources they can use to transition from being homeless or at-risk into a transitional or permanent structure,” Kleindienst said.
About 38,000 veterans are homeless in the United States, Kleindienst said, noting that DAV departments and chapters across the country are offering stand downs.
“We want to make sure all veterans have access to the care and services they deserve,” he said. “This is just a great opportunity to let veterans know that DAV is here, about the services we can offer and the resources that are available to them as a result of their military service. We don’t want them to think they’re forgotten.”
Marine veteran Michael Sellmeyer, who served in Afghanistan, said he could get help with his claim and enroll in the school while he was in the Stand Down.
“It was just a blessing for me,” Sellmeyer said. “I’ve been on the road for three years.
“I did two missions in Afghanistan,” he said. “One of them got me discharged from the hospital because of an explosion, and I’ve had a lot of problems getting along with people and trusting people ever since.”
Sellmeyer said he started drinking heavily after leaving the service.
“My household fell apart,” he said. “I have five kids and I took meth with me. If you had told me four years ago that I would ever do meth, I would have told you that you were crazy. But now I’m here.”
Sellmeyer said he lived in a van for three years while trying to work as a mobile mechanic to cure his addiction. One day he decided he had had enough. He walked nine miles from the public park he was in to the Cincinnati VA Medical Center.
“I’ve been clean for a year,” he said. “It feels great, but still society is a little bit different trying to get back to normal. But I feel great. I was 137 pounds when I got off the street. I weigh 202 pounds now.”
According to Sellmeyer, he also took part in the DAV 5K in 2021.
“Everything the DAV does has been amazing to me,” he said.
Pinkard, a Dayton, Ohio native who served in the early 1980s, said he could speak to DAV about ongoing service-related VA claims. He spent some time speaking to representatives at a booth about the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the VA housing assistance program, which could help him find permanent housing.
Pinkard also got his hair cut and enjoyed getting his fingernails manicured for the first time in his life.
“I feel fabulous, I really do,” he said. “It helps to build appreciation.”