Although the late Sgt. William R. Breese wasn’t there Saturday, those involved in the first-ever Veteran Stand Down know he would have appreciated the event.
Dozens of military veterans came and went from the Holiday Inn and Suites on the west side of Stillwater throughout the duration of the event that was created to help those who have served the country deal with civilian life.
They were also there to honor Breese, who passed away on Sept. 20. He served in the Army from 1984-2004. Family and friends were on hand Saturday to accept a bronze plaque honoring the longtime Stillwater veteran.
“It just shows my appreciation for that man, not only to the VFW, but to the city and Payne County,” VFW 2027 Commander John Paine said. “He was all over the place, and whether you were a veteran or not, he was going to help you out. We wanted to give that plaque to his wife, because she shared him with us. We really appreciate that and his wife is something special, too. We miss him dearly.”
The VFW 2027 hosted the event with the goal of aiding veterans with services, such as processing claims, suicide prevention, free haircuts, free food and registering for the VA and VFW.
That was the main goal of the event, which Paine hopes to become an annual tradition.
“Bill Breese and I were talking one day and he said we needed to do something for veterans here in Payne County,” Paine said. “It takes time to plan these kinds of things, and we finally got it to a point where we wanted to do it. … It’s going to be something we’ll continue to do in the future.”
Another reason for hosting Saturday’s Stand Down is the holiday season can be difficult for veterans who are or have been deployed overseas. The VFW 2027 wanted to help veterans begin the new year off right.
“This is a good opportunity for the VFW to understand what all of the other services do for veterans,” Paine said. “It will make our coordination better, because we see a face. We’re even growing. We took on about four or five new members this morning.
“I didn’t realize the American Humane Society trains service dogs. Now, we know this and we have a few that could use that service.”
The American Humane First to Serve group was at the event to make veterans aware of their service. It is a group dedicated to training service dogs for veterans.
“We locate dogs that need forever homes and we find veterans that need dogs,” American Humane First to Serve service dog trainer Sharon Dilley said. “We do some training with the dog, pair the dog with the veteran and then do weekly training sessions. We have classes here in Stillwater and in Tulsa. Then we teach the veterans how to teach the dogs to be service dogs. It’s incredible and what we find interesting is even thugh
these small puppies sometimes aren’t ready to go out in public, they still have the same affect on the veterans – they calm him or her and help them with the symptoms they’re having trouble with.”
Dilley and Megan Lowry brought Remi, a 2-year-old German Shepherd, to the Stand Down. Dilley said German Shepherds aren’t often used for service dogs, but she wanted to bring him to show what the group is trying to do for veterans.
“There are certain things we look for in the dog to see if it would be a good service dog – friendly with people, friendly with other animals and not afraid to go in many different places, because veterans get out and about, so we want a dog that’s unshakable in different environments,” Dilley said. “We’re starting a big push in Oklahoma and Megan and I’s goal is 50 states in five years. We want to put our program in all 50 states and have trainers in all 50 states that will work with the veterans in their own geographical area. Right now, we’re focused on meeting the needs of veterans in Oklahoma.”