The area's homeless military veterans found services galore this weekend at the North Florida Fairgrounds. The annual Veterans' Stand Down is an effort to get these troubled heroes' lives back on track.
Part of a Fairgrounds exhibit hall became a real Leon County courtroom on Saturday. There, Judge Ron Flury was turning monetary fines for old, non-violent offenses into community service hours.
"So let's bring those out to 40 hours per month," he told one of the defendants, a former Marine. "You get those knocked out and that's going to be a good, heavy load off of you, okay?" "Absolutely!" replied the obviously relieved gentleman and Judge Flury wished him luck before moving on to the next case.
A few feet away volunteer photographers Phil Kiracofe and Steve Hurm were discovering every face truly tells a story.
"To have an opportunity to spend a few minutes with these folks has really been rewarding," said Hurm. "You think you've got someone figured out by your initial impression of them and then you get to talking to them and you see a real person there who has some of the most amazing stories and experiences to share and you say, 'Wow!'" agreed Kiracofe.
And event organizer and guiding light Washington Sanchez said even the homeless vets' pets were getting a break from street life.
"They get their dogs and cats treated for an entire year, plus they give them worm medicine and they even have dog food they give them."
There were also job placement and housing services. More than 1,000 meals were served during the Stand Down.