Archive for the ‘Military & Veterans’ Category

Free entrance, parking at East Bay parks for active and retired military on Veterans Day

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021

The East Bay Regional Park District honors active and retired military members on Veterans Day with free access and parking at the regional parks, including Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. Fee waiver only covers parking and park entry. Fee waiver DOES NOT include dog fees, boat launch or inspection fees, fishing permits, or concessions, such as merry-go-round, train, etc.

The East Bay Regional Park District is the largest regional park system in the nation, comprising 73 parks, 55 miles of shoreline, and over 1,300 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and environmental education. The Park District receives more than 25 million visits annually throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Antioch Veterans Day festivities and parade in Rivertown Nov. 11

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

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Hoops for Troops Antioch Family Night with Delta Veterans Group at the Warriors Nov. 12

Tuesday, October 26th, 2021

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Stand Down on the Delta planned for this weekend postponed until next June due to COVID-19

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

Herald file photo.

Semi-annual veterans support event at fairgrounds in Antioch will be replaced by Stand-Up on the Delta 2022

By Gerald “J.R.” Wilson, Jr., CEO & President, Delta Veterans Group Board of Directors

The Delta Veterans Group (DVG) Board of Directors, with deep sadness, had made the decision to postpone Stand Down on the Delta for 2021.  The Board of Directors did not make this decision alone, but with the recommendation and guidance of the Department of Veterans Affairs Health to include our local Medical VA Outpatient Clinic in Martinez, Contra Costa County Health Department as well as our community partners.

The event to support local veterans has been held every other year, during odd-numbered years, at the Contra Costa Event Park (fairgrounds) in Antioch. During even-numbered years, a similar event is held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.

The DVG Board has elected to conduct a “Stand-Up on the Delta 2022” and has secured the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds for May 31 through June 8, 2022. The Stand-Up on the Delta will take place June 3-5, 2022, a three-day event.

Tent city at Stand Down on the Delta 2015. Herald file photo.

Although Stand-Up on the Delta will be different than a traditional Stand Down event, it will provide many services that our veterans in the Bay Area need. This event will be opened to all veterans and will have service providers from our four-core areas (Health, Employment, Housing and Education). We still plan on having our “Fishing on the Delta”, Roller Skating, Car Show, Animal Care, Clothing, Legal Aid, Veteran Information Seminars, Veteran Legislative Seminars, Barbers, Bands, DMV, Health Fair, Dental, Vision and other essential services.  The main difference is that there will be no overnight housing and the Stand-Up will be held every day from 8 AM to 6 PM.

The VA, on a national scale, has decided to step away from supporting 52 Stand Downs throughout the country, this year. As we watched the COVID-19 numbers increase daily, including among those who have been vaccinated, we became extremely concerned for the safety of our volunteers and veterans.  Many of our service organizations and individual volunteers have informed us they would be unable to attend due to the increase in COVID-19 cases affecting their safety and the safety of their employees.

Veterans watch a movie at Stand Down on the Delta. Herald file photo.

If you are a volunteer, watch your email in the late winter / early spring of 2022.  We will be adding new time slots to reflect the new dates. The email will let you know when the website is ready for volunteer sign ups.

If you are a vendor or a service provider, we ask that you understand this was not an easy decision to postpone the Stand Down. We hope that you will keep in contact with your coordinator and accept our invitation to join us in June 2022 for “Stand Up on the Delta”.

If you are a veteran that has registered as a “Participant” we ask that you continue to stay safe, and we will continue to work with you towards Stand Up on the Delta (June 3-5, 2022) and your continuing journey.

We plan to hold our Stand Up on the Delta 2022 meetings, beginning in early in 2022, for a successful return to what we do best – providing “a Hand Up, not a Hand-Out” to all of our Veterans.

Hope to see you all safe and healthy in 2022!

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Antioch veterans to commemorate 20th anniversary of 9-11 Saturday morning

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

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Video by Joey Travolta and crew promoting Stand Down on the Delta in September released

Monday, June 21st, 2021

Veterans Tony Archimedes and Joe Martinez perform in the Music Heals video as part of The Illusions Band. Screenshot.

By Allen Payton

The video about the bands that perform at the biennial Stand Down on the Delta, to promote this year’s event, entitled “Music Heals” was released last week. Director and producer Joey Travolta and his Inclusion Films crew of predominately students, shot and edited the almost 8-minute video at Smith’s Landing Seafood Grill in May. (See related article)

Band leader and veteran Gig Edwards is interviewed in the video. Screenshot.

“Delta Veterans Group is proud to bring Stand Down on the Delta 2021 to Contra Costa County September 10-13, 2021,” said J.R. Wilson, the organization’s president. “This year we are starting a new program called ‘Music Heals’ conducted by our Entertainment Director Darlyn Phillips. This program will engage our veterans in music, to calm the soul.”

“Music often times breaks down barriers that might be obstacles to reintegration,” he continued. “The music brings out the inner joy in those that may have PTSD or other Health problems…. Bands from around the Bay Area will be coming to the CCC Fairgrounds to participate in this great event.”

Darlyn Phillips sings as jazz guitarist Steve Krohn performs in the Music Heals video. Screenshot.

Travolta’s film crew includes youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who are students in his program throughout the state. Five of the students helped shoot the Music Heals video.

“Darlyn enlisted the help of Joey Travolta and his crew to shoot the promo video, which we’re excited to have for this year’s event,” Wilson shared. “We very much appreciate his and the Inclusion Films team work on this project.”

The video includes interviews with the various singers and musicians from the bands that perform at each Stand Down, as well as some of the songs they will be playing, including originals.

Gig & Friends, including drummer Evan Carr and bassist Michael Fourie perform in the video. Screenshot.

For more information or to volunteer for the four-day event at the Contra Costa Event Park (fairgrounds) visit the Stand Down on the Delta Facebook page or Delta Veterans Group website.



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Memorial Day Commemoration in Antioch Monday, May 31

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

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Director, producer Joey Travolta brings unique film crew to Antioch to shoot video for biennial veterans event

Monday, May 17th, 2021

Director Joey Travolta (grey sweater) and his crew film The Illusions band on the deck at Smith’s Landing Seafood Grill in Antioch on Saturday, May 15, 2021.

“Music Heals” for Stand Down on the Delta to be held Sept. 10-13 at Contra Costa Event Park

By Allen Payton

Joey Travolta. From Inclusion Films website.

Director and producer Joey Travolta brought one of his unique film crews to Antioch on Saturday, May 15 to shoot a promotional video for this year’s Stand Down on the Delta, the biennial event for veterans. The video, entitled “Music Heals” focuses on the bands that will be playing at this year’s four-day event, Sept. 10-13 at the Contra Costa Event Park (fairgrounds) in Antioch, according to J.R. Wilson, president of both Delta Veterans Group (DVG) and Stand Down on the Delta.

The filming took place on the deck of Smith’s Landing Seafood Restaurant overlooking the Antioch Marina. Owners Randy and Lynn Tei are big supporters of the veterans, sponsoring the Veterans Day and Memorial Day events in Antioch, and the Veteran of the Year award, Wilson shared. He was joined by Pat Jeremy, V.P. of DVG and Delta Director of Stand Down, to watch the filming. (See videos here, here, and here)

The music director for the Stand Down, Darlyn Phillips, had the idea for the video and invited Travolta and his crew to shoot it. The older brother of actor John Travolta, who recently moved to San Francisco so he and his wife could be near their daughter and grandson, Jonah who will turn one, next month, agreed.

The Film Crew

The slate (clapboard) for the first scene, as Joey Travolta and students head to the location to film.

Crews from his Inclusion Films company consist mainly of youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities from his six dedicated production studios throughout California, including Livermore, Stockton and the largest one in Sacramento, as well as Bakersfield, San Bernardino and San Diego.

“He teaches them to be in the film industry and then helps get them jobs,” Phillips shared.

“We bring in a pro camera guy and sound guy in. The rest of the crew are students,” Travolta said. He serves as the director and producer.

“The workshops that we have, seven around the state, Bakersfield was the first in 2008, then Livermore in 2013. We partnered with Futures Explored and we have their students,” Travolta explained. “We also have students from Options for All. We use the pros but always have the students work to hone their craft.”

The film crew from Inclusion Films and Futures Films prepares to shoot The Illusions band performance.

The crew in Antioch on Saturday was from both Options for All program in San Jose and Futures Explored programs in Livermore and Sacramento, under the leadership of Film & Media Director, Hester Wagner. It included two professionals from Sacramento, Austin Blank on sound and Michael Thygesen on camera. The other five crew members were students.

“They’re funded through the state of California. They’re Regional Center clients,” said Travolta. “Students can be from other places. I have students from San Diego in Bakersfield. We have campers from back east.”

His career, in which he started as a singer then actor, includes work as a movie director of 18 films. That and Travolta’s degree and experience teaching in special education brought him to this venture which he started in 2007.

“We offer a twenty-week program at a time. The students take camera, lighting, acting, writing, building sets, everything,” Travolta continued. “While they’re doing that, they develop scripts for a 25-minute film. They break it down, they schedule it and go through the post production process of editing and sound mix.”

The Inclusion Films and Futures Films crew shoots The Illusions band with the help of Hester Wagner (right).

“I liken it to the minor leagues of baseball. They cut their teeth and can make their mistakes,” he stated. “They’re getting good, final, solid product and the experience to hone their craft.”

“We’ll do five or six camps each year,” Travolta added.

“I did a film camp in the Fairfield Vacaville area for the Solano school district about a year ago. Darlyn went to the screening of it and told me about the Stand Down and wanted to do this video,” he said, explaining the connection.

Futures Explored through their Futures Films provides crews for Northern California shoots, while Options for All provides them in both Northern and Southern California.

“Most of my crew is mainly in Bakersfield,” he said. “If you want to do something in Nor Cal or the desert, we have crews.”

While Travolta’s company is for profit, he said Futures and Options are non-profits.

First Feature Film Wins Audience Choice at Festival

“Last year we did our first feature film, Carol of the Bells,” said Travolta. Some known actors are in it, including Diana Mills and Lee Purcell.

“Each of the studios sent two pros and four students who came and stayed for two weeks. We did it through SAG (Screen Actors Guild),” he stated. “I wanted to prove we could do this. 70% of the crews were students.”

That was a world-wide first.

“We won Audience Choice for feature film in San Diego” Travolta continued. (See related article) “Then in Bentonville, Arkansas, it debuted there. The film festival there was started as a women film makers event by Gina Davis. Then they added in disabilities and that’s when I came in.”

“Unfortunately, we released right at the start of COVID,” he said. “We did a documentary (about the film) that played on PBS. So, the word got out there.”

Set during Christmas time, Carol of the Bells is described on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) as “a young man with a troubled past searches for his biological mother and discovers that she is developmentally disabled.” The movie can be viewed on Amazon Prime. (This reporter watched it Saturday night and gives it a thumbs up. But be sure to have a box of tissues or a hanky handy!)

“Then also we have Inclusion Networks, a subscription-based company, with all the films we do, all the camps we do, and the funds are used to pay for jobs and development of employment,” Travolta shared. “We put new content on every few weeks.”

The one-of-a-kind channel features TV series, documentaries, short films, and special features created and produced by his film crews. According to the website, with each subscription, a majority of the proceeds go to the employment of individuals with disabilities, helping provide more jobs for them in the film industry.

Asked if his brother John has been part of his venture, Travolta responded, “he is really supportive of us. A friend was doing a film. I sent five of our folks down to Georgia and worked for a month. John ended up being the star of it. He was down there and said, ‘these guys are unbelievable.’”

The Bands

Travolta directs during filming of the band Gig & Friends.

“We’re bringing awareness about music healing,” Phillips said about the promotional video. “In this instance for the Delta Veterans Group’s Stand Down on the Delta, these are some of the bands that perform for the veterans each time.”

“The idea of it is to show how music heals,” she continued. “Many of the band members are veterans. One guy, Tony Archimedes played for 10 hours straight, playing multiple instruments when others couldn’t make it. The band members are from all over the Bay Area and Northern California.”

They say, ‘anything for the veterans,’” Phillips added.

Future Films crew was on site doing the filming Hester Wagner, Director of Film and Media Programs said they partner with Travolta’s company and do the same thing in the Bay Area.

“We interviewed six band members and now we will get them playing,” Travolta said before the start of filming. “This will be a seven- or eight-minute promotional video for the Stand Down and what you’re doing, here. Then hopefully, they’ll have photos from the event that we can cut in.”

Darlyn & The Groove Room perform during filming.

The first band to play and be filmed was The Illusions, led by drummer Richard Rivas and included Archimedes on saxophone. The other band members are Billy Thompson on bass, Joe Martinez on trumpet, Mitch McCarrie on the guitar and L.A. Ramirez also on guitar.

They were followed by Gig and Friends, named for Greg “Gig” Edwards, and included drummer Evan Carr (whose son, Austin, plays wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints), bassist Michael Fourie with his unique, upright electric bass, and Archimedes on the keyboard. They performed an original song written for veterans by Edwards and Phillips.

The third and final band to be filmed, Darlyn & The Groove Room, with Phillips as lead singer, performed original songs and included jazz guitarist Steve Krohn and drummer Barry Hutcherson (son of legendary jazz artist Bobby Hutcherson), plus Fourie and Archimedes repeating on bass and keyboard.

Filming during Darlyn & The Groove Room’s performance.

“The final video should be ready in a couple weeks,” sound man Blank shared.

President of both Delta Veterans Group and Stand Down on the Delta, J.R. Wilson is interviewed for the promo video.

The Event

Stand Down on the Delta is held every two years, alternating between Antioch in odd years and the East Bay Stand Down in Pleasanton in even years. This year’s event will be held the weekend of the 20th anniversary of 9-11, event organizer Wilson shared. They serve military veterans, many of whom are homeless, who come and stay, are provided free meals, free medical and dental care, clothing and enjoy the live music throughout the weekend.

“The bands will be playing from 10 am to 10 pm each day,” Phillips added.

The Contra Costa Event Park is located at 1201 W. 10th Street in Antioch.

For more information or to volunteer visit or the Stand Down on the Delta 2021 Facebook page.

That’s a wrap! The film crew, including (l-r) Austin Blank, Alex Borson, Hester Wagner, Erick Tash, Jabari Daniels, Andrew Kunzel, Joey Travolta, Brandon Dominguez and Michael Thygesen, following the shoot at Smith’s Landing Seafood Grill.

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