The North County San Diego (NCSD) Veterans Stand Down was created by local veterans who saw a need to serve the ever-going population of homeless and transitioning veterans in North County. This grassroots initiative now involves veterans service organizations, community service groups, local leaders, and hundreds of volunteers all working to provide a hand to our local homeless veterans. The VA, Interfaith community Services, and local doctors and dentists are among the many service providers who have stepped up to help our veterans. They are all working together to get our veterans three days of secure sleep in a bed, medical care, food, clothing, legal help and so much more. It’s much more than a 3-day event. It’s an event to showcase the plight of our homeless veterans and to provide our community the opportunity to change veterans’ lives in North County.
Stand Down was the brain-child of Thomas Cowan, a Marine Vietnam veteran, and Escondido resident. He and some friends had just finished volunteering at Veterans Stand Down in San Diego, and were reflecting on the weekend. Tom thought there should be a Stand Down for the North County. The idea became a cause, and Tom its flag-bearer. He spoke about it to anyone who would listen. Eventually, he found a group of veterans who shared his vision.
Matt Foster – A Marine who served 24 years on active duty, including three tours in Iraq. He continues to serve veterans and his community as Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1513. Matt’s passion is helping veterans transition to a successful life after the military. Matt serves as Board Chairman.
Mark Rodriguez – A Reconnaissance Marine who served his country for 4 years, Mark was one of the first members of the Stand Down Committee. An engineer by trade, he serves as Webmaster and Director of Strategic Planning & Development.
Michael Frank – A retired Air Force Operations and Logistics specialist, Mike continues to serve veterans as Adjutant for American Legion Post 149 and Officer of the Day for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1513 in Escondido. His skills are well-honed after 30 years of service to his country and continue to serve the community as Director of Operations and Logistics.
Michael Walsh – A retired Army infantry officer, entrepreneur, and financial advisor, he is driven to succeed and to show others how they can do so in their own lives. Mike serves as Director of Volunteers and Vendor Services.
David Casey – A Navy veteran, Dave continues to serve his community as Adjutant and Judge Advocate for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1513. Dave has worked closely with the Legal Aid Society of San Diego; first as a volunteer clerk and later as a volunteer attorney in the Consumer Protection Division. His work earned him the Pro Bono Honors Society Award from California Western School of Law and the Outstanding Service Award from the Legal Aid Society. He serves as Director of Legal Services for the Stand Down.
Xavier Martinez – A Navy veteran, his expertise in tax law, administration, and accounting for non-profits has been instrumental in helping the Stand Down succeed. Xavier serves as Director of Finance & Budget.
Ed Komzelman – A retired Navy officer, he shares Tom’s passion for veterans. Ed serves as Co-Director of Logistics.
Jim Hester – A Naval Aviator, he was shot down in Vietnam as he was attacking a battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers who had surrounded a number of Reconnaissance Marines. Twelve of the Marines he was defending ending up saving his life when they fought hand-to-hand with the enemy to rescue Jim and his crew. Nine of the twelve Marines died saving him and his crew. Jim was medically retired from the Navy soon afterwards. 27 years ago, he found a way to pay his debt to those Marines by helping homeless veterans get off the streets. Jim serves as Fundraising and Marketing Co-Chair with Tom Cowan.
Stand Down Honorary Chair – Arie de Jong
Arie de Jong, an Army veteran and philanthropist, owns Green Oak Ranch. After hearing Jim Hester’s presentation at a Hidden Valley Kiwanis Club meeting, he offered use of the Ranch to the committee. That one act made this event possible.
After his retirement as owner of Hollandia Dairy and Diamond Services, Arie went about looking for other projects “to help mankind.” He found one when he purchased Green Oak Ranch in Vista in the late 1990s. De Jong made improvements to the facility that houses a drug and alcohol recovery program and charged the operators a nominal fee of $1 to continue their mission.
We are forever indebted to Arie for his generosity.
Supervisor Bill Horn – A Marine officer and Vietnam veteran, he provided us a grant of $50,000.00! We thank Supervisor Horn for believing in us.