Flags will be raised, bugles will sound taps, and wreaths will be laid on November 11 as many Lions throughout the country pay homage on Veterans Day to members of the military—both living and dead—who have served their country.

For Lion Elmer Madrid, a Vietnam War veteran and president of the Peninsula Special Interest Lions Club in California, serving veterans with their medical and other needs is his mission, not only on Veteran’s Day, but throughout the year.

The Peninsula club was founded in 2012 as a medical equipment and educational club.  It has sent medical equipment and supplies to 22,000 Lions clubs across the globe that have a veteran’s component as part of their mission.

In addition, it operates medical clinics in San Mateo, Africa, the Philippines and India. The clinic in San Mateo, which currently is distributing COVID-19 and flu shots, serves a clientele that is 50% veterans, says Eleanor Britter, a retired physician and secretary of the club.

Due to the pandemic, the club this year cannot hold another of its initiatives, a Veteran’s Stand Down, an event that previously provided hundreds of veterans in the San Mateo, California area with a variety of much-need services including medical, dental, and vision services, chaplain counseling, legal assistance, housing referrals, clothing, and other supplies.

A stand down is a military term that signifies a time when combat soldiers are given respite from the battlefield and take the time to tend to their health, welfare, and other needs.

Though he is disappointed that a stand down can’t be held this year, that’s not stopping Madrid from continuing to help veterans in any way he can, like organizing a trip to a Golden State Warrior’s basketball game next week.

He says many veterans, including those who are homeless, may not have the resources to buy tickets or travel to such events.

veterans stand in line for BBQ
Peninsula Special Interest Lions serve veterans at one of their events.

“My plans [for the coming year] are to do things that many veterans can’t [otherwise] do—like go to the movies or a sporting event,” he says.

He’s currently raising funds for the club to purchase two nine-seat vans that can be used for taking veterans to events.

Madrid, who is retired, served two years in Vietnam. Following his service, he took part in seven years of counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder. After his condition improved, he realized he wanted to devote his life to helping veterans.

Always on the look-out for ways to provide service, he received a call recently from a son who wanted help removing furniture from his deceased father’s house so it could be put up for sale. Madrid called three veterans who cleared the house and were happy to receive items they needed for their own apartments.

large domed tents
Large tents help Peninsula Lions organize their yearly Veteran’s Stand Down event.

“All of a sudden they had beds, couches, and pots and pans. And they were very appreciative,” he says. “There’s nothing better than being able to support and help veterans.”

Madrid says being a Lion helps his efforts in several ways including fundraising. “I can go to companies and ask for their support and it’s tax deductible,” he says.

Being a Lion also creates confidence among donors who trust their donations will be used wisely.

“What goes along with being a Lion is accountability,” he says. “Our treasurer accounts for every dollar that goes in and out.”

Proving his work is never done, Madrid is already planning next year’s stand down, which is scheduled for Sept. 29 through Oct. 2, and which will take a year to organize.

“I’m already collecting clothing and other items for next year’s stand down,” he says. “I have two storage lockers. I am forever collecting stuff so we can take care of the vets.”

Britter, like Madrid, urges Lions to find ways to support veterans whose needs may not be immediately apparent.

“You must include veterans and reach out to them because the need is there even though you don’t always see it,” she says.