MANATEE -- One day a year, America takes time to pay tribute to the millions of men and women who served in the military, many of whom return home with emotional or physical scars from their service.
Veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan often return with severe long-term health issues, such as traumatic brain injuries, amputations and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, said Don Courtney, chairman of the Manatee Veterans Council, which is coordinating Sunday's Veterans Day parade and service in Palmetto.
The problem can be overwhelming for veterans who may not know where to turn for help, said Jessica McVay, commandant of the Marine Corps League DeSoto Detachment 588.
"From my perspective, I feel like there are a lot of re
sources out there for veterans, but they don't know who to ask, or they may feel shame in asking," McVay said.
For that reason, many organizations stand ready to help vets get the help they need either with a veterans service officer, the Bradenton Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, 5520 State Road 64 E., or at VA hospitals in St. Petersburg and Tampa.
A recent Stand-Down event to help homeless people get a bath, clean clothing, food and other help at the Manatee County Fairgrounds in Palmetto attracted more than 650 adults, including about 110 veterans, said Adell Erozer, executive director of the Community Coalition on Homelessness.
The Bill Galvano One Stop Center, at 701 17th Ave. W., now has a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) worker to assist veterans.
Approximately 10 percent of the clients the One Stop Center sees are vets, Erozer said.
"It used to be mostly Vietnam-era veterans. Many are very bitter about difficulties working through the system. Now we are getting more veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan era. It's quite a range," Erozer said.
Among those taking the lead in helping vets is the Manatee County Veterans Service Office, which can assist with information, referrals and claim applications.
Manatee County has an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 year-round veterans, and that number swells in the winter, says Andy Huffman, veterans service officer.
This year's Veterans Day parade is set for 9:30 a.m. Sunday at the Manatee County Fairgrounds, 1402 14th Ave. W. The parade will proceed south on 10th Avenue and end at Sutton Park, 1050 6th St. W., all in Palmetto.
At 11 a.m., a service will be held at Sutton Park, during which the veteran and auxiliary members of the year will be announced, Courtney said. Among those taking part in the parade will be six Junior ROTC units from Manatee County high schools and the Southeast High School band.
Other Veterans Day related-activities include:
n The Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, bishop of the Diocese of Venice, will celebrate the annual Veterans Day Mass at 3 p.m., Nov. 11 at the Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72, in honor of the men and women who have served our country and continue to serve today.
Sarasota National Cemetery is approximately five miles east of Interstate 75. Guests are asked to park at Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, to await shuttle bus transportation. General parking will not be available at the cemetery.
n The Bridge Street Merchants will be hosting their inaugural Veterans Day Celebration at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at 107 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, on the south end of Anna Maria Island.
MacDill Air Force Base is scheduled to provide a military flyover along the Bradenton Beach coastline.
Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy will speak, along with recognition of local vets. Each veteran will receive a collection of gift certificates and offers from area businesses.
The Palma Sola VFW Post 10141 Flag and Color Guard will also be in attendance.
All veterans and current service members and their families are invited.
n Anytime Fitness in Parrish, 8332 U.S. Hwy. 301 N, is hosting a Tough Hero Competition 10 a.m. Saturday. The Tough Hero is a national gym competition to benefit active duty military members and their families and is held across America.
Proceeds are used to help a military family through Active Heroes, which supports a broad range of needs. This includes helping with financial issues such as mortgage, car payments, electricity bills or water bills.
n Manatee Technical Institute's fourth annual Veterans Day 5K Race is set for 7:30 a.m. Saturday at MTI's East Campus, 5520 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.
n Veterans and active military personnel will have free admission Sunday to Florida's state parks, except Skyway Fishing Pier State Park.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 951-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1.