Veterans in need

 Lt. Col. Amy McGrath (retired) speaks with retired Navy Chief Jim Mills during Operation Stand Down hosted by the Appalachian Veteran Project on Saturday, June 22 in West Liberty. Photo by Julianna Leach / The Daily Independent.

WEST LIBERTY Starting a path to find and help homeless veterans in Kentucky is the goal of the Appalachian Veteran Project’s Operation Stand Down event.

The event brought in over 75 veterans and their families to become familiar with resources available to them. Retired Lt. Col. Amy McGrath made an appearance in West Liberty to encourage veterans to ask for help and recognize their worth in the community.

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 Lt. Col. Amy McGrath (retired) speaks with retired Navy Chief Jim Mills during Operation Stand Down hosted by the Appalachian Veteran Project on Saturday, June 22 in West Liberty. Photo by Julianna Leach / The Daily Independent.

“The real purpose is to make sure you as veterans and you as family members of veterans know how much you matter to this country and how much you matter to Kentucky,” said McGrath.

The event coordinator Greg Dykes said it was a way to start a conversation about what veterans need.

“We started talking about the needs of veterans in the area and that there really isn’t a place where they could all meet,” said Dykes.

There was an exclusive veteran tent at the event designed to encourage conversation among them.

“Those of us who have been in the military we are using to direct, tell us. Stand up and tell us what you need,” said McGrath. “That’s what this day is about.”

Other resources that were available included physical examinations, counseling services, free clothing options and more.

The University of Pikeville had a Mobile Optometrist Unit where second and third-year college students gave free eye examinations to veterans.

“We want to make sure veterans know about taking care of their eyes and making sure that their eyes are healthy,” said Dr. Ben Konig, Assistant Professor of Optometry.

The Appalachian Veteran Project wants to provide quality and sustainable housing to veterans starting with a focus of Menifee, Morgan, Magoffin and Wolfe counties.

“It’s nice to just be acknowledged,” said 21-year U.S. Navy veteran Lisa Gazay.

Dykes said he hopes that this event is only the start of something that could be run by veterans for veterans.

“Hopefully out of this there will emerge a committee that will carry on this idea of searching for who is in need,” said Dykes.