In honor of this year's Operation Stand Down 2015 with Veterans Village of San Diego, we would like to share a truly amazing story of a man we are very proud to call our co-worker and friend. This is the story of Coday Campbell's Stand Down...

My Stand Down
By Coday Campbell

Let me begin by reminding people what Stand Down is.  Stand Down, in San Diego, CA is an event that covers 3 days and 2 nights where they bring the Homeless Veterans in off the streets in order to do what ever they can to aid these men and women. The very first Stand Down was held in 1988 and has been held every single year since. For a better history of Stand Down please visit

I had been living in the bushes here in San Diego for eight years when I first attended Stand Down in 2002. The reason I never went before, though I was homeless, was because of my way of thinking - it wasn't for me. I saw Stand Down as something for those who were using drugs and/or practicing alcoholics and I was not one of those. It was by chance on that very Saturday, July 13, 2002 that I finally decided to check it out. I had been clean for 16 years and I thought I knew it all about being sober and needed no help in that area. (That was a joke)  I signed up for Stand Down in hopes of getting a bus pass. I had just landed a part time job and needed transportation to and from the work place. I would still be homeless but the beds they might give me were better off going to a person more in need than I. A bus pass is all I needed or wanted. Well I found out I was so very wrong.

My plan was to get that bus pass and then leave, but I found out they didn't give them out. However, a gentleman from VVSD told me he would see about getting me one. That was the beginning. My tent leaders, Evan Harr, Lisa Palmer and Lisa's Grandmother, began working their magic on me.

I was a man who used to lay in bed at night and cry out of loneliness but even worse because the tears no longer flowed and I didn't care anymore. Now here I was, surrounded by so many men and women in the same position. The most surprising thing was the number of people, like my tent leaders, who really cared and asked nothing in return. My schooling had begun.

These people convinced me to stay. Hey, why not? I wasn't taking away a bed from anybody, plus the warm food was a nice change. Oh, how they sucked me in...Never once did I feel like I was being forced or expected to do anything except relax and take advantage of what they had to offer. Showers, haircuts, massages, optical care, dental care and clothing were offered. I took advantage of all of these. I was even offered a bed in an in-house treatment program.  I turned down the treatment program thinking I would be taking away from someone who really needed it. After all, I wasn't using and could feed myself.

My tent leaders saw something in me I didn't know existed. They never looked down on me. They got me to talk about my life on the streets, my life in the Navy and even my life growing up. By telling my story, I found strings that connected most of my problems together where I never thought of before.

It was with the love, respect and patience of these volunteers that I discovered I had it all wrong. I could clearly see that though I had stopped drinking 16 years earlier, I was far from sober. I am an alcoholic and this disease has many symptoms. I had only been working and treating just the one, the drinking. I had ignored mainly the emotional and mental symptoms that go along with alcoholism.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I had continued on the way I was, with my depression and low self-esteem, I would be dead by now. God smiled down on this lost soul and sent me in the right direction. I was finally learning to be sober and on my way to living and not just surviving, if you could call it that.

I returned to Stand Down every year, for the next six years, as a participant. I even managed to bring a pound of cigarette tobacco and rolling papers with me to share. During these years, I was still homeless but continued to work odd jobs and part time work. It was in 2008 that I found a full time job and moved out of the bushes.

Just a few weeks prior to Stand Down 2008, my newly found job fell apart when the pet store I was working at closed their doors. I had already volunteered as a Tent Leader for that July, but would not let the fact that I was back out on the streets stop me. I did my volunteer work and God smiled down on me. I began working at Frank Toyota on August 1st that very same year. I know in my heart that if I had not done my volunteer work that first year, I would not have gotten this job.

I am proud to say that I have been a Tent Leader at Stand Down every year since and now many of my friends volunteer. The owners of my company, Frank Motors, not only volunteered the last two years, but have also sponsored a homeless tent for the last two years. Through the Toyota Match Program, Frank Toyota has contributed $10,000 to VVSD over the past four years, to be matched with an additional $10,000 from Toyota Corp. This year, my graduating class from Maud Ok 1974 will sponsor a homeless tent as well.