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Hundreds turn out for Veterans Stand Down in Columbus

Homeless and unemployed, Marilyn Lockett said her life has been sinking since she lost her mother four years ago, but she’s thankful for the South Atlantic Center for Veterans Education and Training Inc.

“It has helped me some,” Lockett said of the non-profit organization. “It may not throw a job in my lap but it shows that someone truly cares.”

Lockett joined hundreds of veterans today at the Fifth Annual Homeless Veterans and Veterans Stand Down at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center. The event included Georgia’s first Homeless Female Veteran and Female Veteran Stand Down.

At booths and tables scattered throughout the Trade Center, veterans were able to get free health screenings, legal consultation, employement services, clothing, food, daycare for children, makeovers and other services.

Lockett of Tuskegee, Ala., served more than eight years in the Army as a patient administration specialist. She had just left the military and was seeking employment when her mother died. 

“I ended up leaving the house left to me, my parents house,” Lockett said. “I couldn’t keep it because I wasn’t working. It had to be sold. Then I had to go somewhere and pay rent with that money which I thought was ridiculous but I had to. When that ran out, I kept sinking.”

She now lives at the Central Albama Veterans Healthcare Center East which operates a program for the homeless.

“They are helping me,” she said. “They help me by carrying me back and forth to job searches and job fairs. I don’t qualify for some housing, but I wouldn’t want to be in housing and have to pay rent.”

After serving eight years in the Army, Teri White of Tuskegee said she was at the Trade Center to seek more benefits. Deployed to Iraq from 2006-2007, White said she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. “I’ve got some benefits but trying to get more,” said White, 42.

Bill Johnson, 53, of Phenix City was trying to correct a mistake he made more than 30 years while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. He offered 70 percent medical disability after surgery on his brain but he refused. “I turned down 70 percent. I didn’t know,” said Johnson who was homeless before moving into the House of Restoration. “We are working on that now.”

Johnson, an unemployed carpenter, said he is pleased with help he has received from Veterans Affairs. He has an ID card that states he is a veteran with service connected top priority. “I love that,” he said. “They are helping me with the forms,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about that at 20 years old.”