The event this year is dedicated to Flagstaff Marine Lance Davison, who suffered from PTSD and traumatic brain injury and took his own life in February 2014. Davison is one of the roughly 22 veterans who commit suicide in this country each day, or one every 65 minutes, according to a 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Stand Down is a collection of services and gifts for homeless veterans and veterans in need. The tables and services all reflect the services available to veterans all year around.
Some of the services, such as the pet care provided at the event, are not just for veterans. Aspen Veterinary Clinic provided check-ups and medical services for pets. The Low Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic of Flagstaff gave free vaccines. Many of the local veterans seemed to be taking advantage of this service. One family brought in two dogs and about five cats to be vaccinated.
Another service that anyone who resided in Coconino County should be aware of, and take advantage of, is the Downwinder’s Program. The North Count Healthcare system presented their radiation exposure screening and education (RESEP) program. If you lived in Coconino County—and other certain areas of Nevada, Utah or Arizona—from 1959 to 1962, you may be eligible for compensation due to the nuclear weapons testing in Nevada. The Northern Arizona Health Care system provides free screening for people who lived in those regions during that period for cancer and other anomalies that might have been a result of those tests. They even help you file the paperwork.
Northern Arizona University provided dental technicians for dental screening and to assist veterans in filing paperwork for dental work needed.
The Salvation Army provided hamburgers, hotdogs and chips for the event. They also gave out sack lunches.
One important feature of the event for the last two-years was the Veterans Court. The Veterans Court is called a therapeutic court in the legal system and is available to veterans all year round. This special court was set up at the event solely to quash pending warrants and allow veterans to get their cases moving in the Veterans Court system. This is not the way the normal court works.
Judge Cathleen Nichols, of Coconino Superior Court Division 5, is the coordinator for the Veterans Court. There are two other therapeutic courts for DUIs and mental health issues which work in similar fashion.
Judge Nichols explained that in the normal course of an arrest, the fact that a defendant is a veteran may enter into the paperwork. If it does not, the veteran may identify himself. Self-identification does require the veteran to prove service, such as a DD-214 or retired identification card. This is particularly useful in misdemeanor cases where a defendant is usually not represented by a lawyer.
Once a veteran is identified, the case is reviewed by the office of the County Attorney to see if they can allow it to be referred to the Veterans Court. The attorney of the defendant is also consulted if he has one. It is up to the defendant to decide if they choose to take this course. It does not allow the veteran to “get away” with anything. The veteran will have to agree to probation with all that entails. They may also be required to attend certain classes or programs and report their progress to the court.
Judge Nichols pointed out two unusual features of this therapeutic court in the Coconino County Superior Court system. First is that the veteran does not necessarily have to have an honorable discharge. A person with a convenience of the government or other type discharge may be considered for the Veterans Court. The second feature is that this is the only court system in the State that currently considers felony cases.
The High Country Stand Down also provided back packs stocked with sleeping bags and hygiene kits. They also provided new shoes and the Goodwill Industries provided free clothing for the homeless veterans.
Any organization or corporation which may be able to provide services or products to veterans may participate in the program. To be involved in the Fourth Annual High Country Stand Down, contact Philan Tree at the office of Mandy Metzger at 928-679-7154. For other areas you can consult the Arizona Stand Down Alliance web site.