For more than 230 years, our brave service men and women have underwritten our freedom by duty, honor and selfless service. Come Monday, November 11, Americans everywhere will give pause on Veterans Day to honor our men and women who have served in the armed forces. Because of the courage and commitment necessary to defend this great nation, our service men and women and our Veterans have made our all-volunteer armed forces one of the most respected in the world.
Many of our Veterans return home and become mired in a struggle to readjust to civilian life after multiple tours and an unprecedented amount of time spent in the combat zone. Upon return, they face economic insecurity and invisible wounds like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, survivor's guilt, and depression. Others may return to legal, family, work or social problems, or perhaps losses incurred by prolonged deployments. Our nation's Veterans need tremendous help readjusting to civilian life, reconnecting with their families, finding gainful and meaningful employment, and maintaining a sense of pride and dignity for their achievements. We must remember that they possess courage, pride, determination, selflessness, and dedication to duty and integrity—all qualities needed to serve a cause larger than oneself and to continue to serve our nation as civilians.
It’s easy to forget how fortunate our nation really is because of its size and abundance. It’s also easy to forget that the United States of America is more than a place. It's an idea forged by the collective genius of a small group of idealistic men whose vision shaped a nation that cherishes freedom and where citizens pledge allegiance to a flag. These ideals are manifested in the diversity and resolve of our people. Throughout history, service men and women have demonstrated strength and resolve, preserving our freedom through service and sacrifice. Thus, it becomes our duty to support our troops and our Veterans.
President John F. Kennedy said, "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." Let’s hang our flags this Veterans Day, but let’s also honor our nation’s Veterans by proactively welcoming home the newly returned from deployment and acknowledging the sacrifices of Veterans from generations past. Family members trying to understand Veterans who have changed as a result of deployment can use the new VA program called Coaching into Care to get their loved ones the help they need. For more information, please visit http://www.mirecc.va.gov/coaching/.
You can also tell Veterans who may not be enrolled for VA health care to drop by their local VA medical center or outpatient clinic, to call the VA Maryland Health Care System’s Enrollment Center at 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7324, or to visit our website at www.maryland.va.gov to enroll for VA health care. It may be the most important thing they do to assure their continued health and well-being. In addition, you can visit hospitalized Veterans, mail them cards and notes, or volunteer at a nearby VA health care facility by calling 1-800-949-1003, ext. 1136. Finally, you can teach your children to honor Veterans by using resources that are available on the VA's Veterans Day website at http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/.
At the VA Maryland Health Care System, every day is Veterans Day. We remain committed to providing the best care and service to the men and women who valiantly answered the call to serve in our nation’s armed forces. We are honored to join with millions of Americans in saying to our great Veterans, "Thank you for your service!"
Dennis H. Smith
Director, VA Maryland Health Care System