Veterans will be connected to these key resources at Santa Clara Co.'s first 'Stand Down' event

Lauren Martinez Image
Thursday, July 6, 2023
First Veterans 'Stand Down' event happening in Santa Clara County
On July 8th and 9th, more than 50 providers will offer free food, haircuts, mental services, legal services, and more to veterans at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. Here's what to know.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A 'Stand Down' event offering support for veterans is coming to Santa Clara County this weekend for the first time.

Steve Fondacaro spent 30 years in uniform for the Army and additional years in support jobs.

"I went to West Point in 1972 I did not come back to California until 2016," Fondacara said.

The former infantryman in special operations is now working double-duty as the director for Central Services and the interim director for the Veterans Services Office in Santa Clara County.

This weekend, Veterans Services will host its first 'Stand Down' event in the county.

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"It's a two-day event, never been done before here where we are trying to get together all of the veterans services, provider organizations, and CBOs into one location at one time so that we can put on an event where all the veterans in the county can first of all become aware of all of these organizations, and take advantage on site in real time," Fondacaro said.

On July 8th and 9th more than 50 providers will offer free food, haircuts, mental services, legal services and more to veterans at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.

VTA will provide free rides.

"Self-identify as a veteran- you can get on any bus, any train, they will take you to the fairgrounds and they will also take you back to where you need to go," Fondacaro said.

Fondacaro said navigating through the national VA is complex.

"I'm a perfect example of it, there's simply no way that an individual can successfully maneuver their way through the entire bureaucracy by themselves," Fondacaro said.

Fondacara said when he submitted to be evaluated by the VA, he didn't hear from them in 13 months.

"I was required to come back to the United States for medical evaluation at 13 months after submitting my packet- I was already in the Republic of Georgia I couldn't make it- there's no way I could come back. The VA told me I was going to be rated 0% and that's how I showed up here in 2016," Fondacaro said.

He said the Veterans Services Representatives in the county took his records and resubmitted him.

"I was rated a 100% disabled permanent and that would've never happened if it hadn't been for the Veteran Service Office," Fondacara said.

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Dr. Puneet Sandhu is currently in the Air Force reserve and a dentist. Her company Mobile Dental is exactly what it sounds like- a dental office on wheels that will provide free services this weekend.

"The need is absolutely huge it's sometimes overwhelming to see that we try and do our best," Sandhu said.

Many veterans struggle to qualify for dental care via the national VA.

"I've had occasions where I want to cry because of what I see and they're so appreciative they deserve the best as you know," Sandhu said.

In San Diego, their annual Stand Down event is considered tremendous with the support from their Marine and Navy communities.

"We don't have that kind of community here, we don't have that kind of base here but the people here, the residents here and the board of supervisors I know here are solidly behind their veterans," Fondacara said.

Stand Down is about connecting Veterans to benefits they've earned. Fondacara hopes this will become an annual event.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Otto Lee said he's truly excited for the event.

"I served in Iraq, and there are many Veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places that our country has been involved in various wars that really could use this help," Lee said.

Veterans are urged to register for the event so organizers can plan accordingly. For more information click here.

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