Mayor Jerry Weiers is celebrating eight years of serving veterans with the most robust Stand Up for Veterans event yet.
Stand Up for Veterans is a day-long event set for 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, September 21, at Glendale Community College. The gathering features hundreds of booths filled with various resources to help veterans get back on their feet.
No services or items are allowed to be sold at the event at Weiers’ request, keeping everything free and totally accessible to all veterans in attendance.
Free legal assistance, opportunities to perform community service on site, Motor Vehicle Division services, job interviews, resume help, social services, applications for health care and benefits, free lunches and free haircuts are all offered throughout the day to veterans and their spouses.
“You can come in with no job, no license, and community service hours to fulfill in the beginning of the day, and turn all of that around in a matter of hours in one location,” Weiers said.
Serving eight years in the Legislature as the chairman of military affairs, Weiers said he was able to see some of the country’s shortcomings when giving back to veterans through an event called Stand Down, a coalition that gives food, water and clothing to homeless veterans.
After attending an event for Stand Down years ago, Weiers said he was inspired to create a day when veterans can be a step ahead, or at least catch up on the things that were holding them back from success, rather than merely helping them survive.
“I know it’s not a manly thing to say, but after being at that event I’d sit in the parking lot and just bawl. It was so sad to see these people (who) put their lives on the line and were willing to give their lives for their country and for our freedoms, and yet their lives are total messes,” Weiers said.
The mayor added that veterans he has met over the years have had to choose between paying a speeding ticket, paying rent or buying groceries with their family.
“It just puts them down this hole that is impossible to come up from,” he said.
“I thought I needed to do something different. I thought I don’t need to stand down — that sounds like you’re kind of giving up — but what if we call it Stand Up for Veterans.”
Stand Up for Veterans is not a city-run event, though it has gained the city of Glendale’s support.
Weiers started Stand Up for Veterans by using contacts he made during his time in the Legislature, admitting that at first the goals of the event were entirely different and have changed over time.
“Eight years ago, the goal was to get people to work. Today, we don’t have a lot of people that are out of work; what we have is more jobs available than we have people to work them,” Weiers said.
“Instead of just offering people a job, let’s increase the number of jobs they can do. Let’s help them get the education or whatever is necessary to get that pay rise or transition into a more beneficial position.”
Through hearing the crowds of more than 1,500 people bring joy to the mayor each year, he said there is one sound that sends chills down his back at each event.
“When one of the veterans is offered a job, they ring this huge bell in the middle of the room. For me, there’s just no better sound that day than hearing that bell. That’s what giving back to veterans sounds like to me,” Weiers said.