VA Maryland Health Care System
VA Maryland Health Care System Director Recognizes 10th Anniversary of 9-11 Attacks
August 22, 2011
Before the 9-11 terror attacks took place in 2001, Americans rarely saw Old Glory flying outside houses and apartments, in the windows of local businesses, or attached to car antennas. Before the attacks, baseball fans anywhere near Baltimore would scream "O" for Orioles during the National Anthem. Americans born just after World War II took for granted their freedoms, despite weekly air raid sirens during the 60’s testing the civil defense warning system. Before the 9-11 terror attacks, Americans felt untouchable because we assumed that we would always be safe on our own shores.
After the terror attacks, along with the uptick in the sales of flags and patriotic decals, came an entire mental and cultural transformation. With the outburst of patriotism came a sense of cohesiveness and a decrease in cynicism as people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds celebrated their citizenship by banning together to heal collective wounds and to fight a single enemy that threatened our land, our values and our ideals. After the terror attacks, many young people joined the military—offering themselves and their lives to defend our nation and fellow citizens, regardless of racial and religious affiliations.
The attacks robbed us of our carefree lives and changed the way we see each other, travel and live. They also robbed our service men and women of their innocence as they were deployed to fight the terrorism that drove the attacks at its source. Over the past decade, Veterans themselves have changed—their faces younger, the numbers of women greater, their needs and expectations unprecedented, and many returning from combat bearing mental and physical scars from their service.
In light of all the aftereffects and changes brought about by the 9-11 terror attacks over the past decade, the VA Maryland Health Care System has also changed to meet the needs of our nation’s newest returning Veterans. We have increased our services for women Veterans, which is the fastest growing demographic within the Veteran population. We have implemented innovative treatments such as virtual reality and prolonged exposure therapies to treat Veterans with Post Traumatic Post Disorder (PTSD). We’ve established an office to focus on the specific needs of returning Veterans and we have increased the number of mental health professionals available to address many of the readjustment issues returning Veterans face as civilians. We also remain committed to serving the health care needs of Veterans from previous wars and conflicts such as Vietnam, Korea, the Gulf War and World War II.
On this 10th anniversary of the terror attacks, I urge all citizens to take a proactive role in welcoming back our newest Veterans. If you know a Veteran, tell him or her to enroll for VA health care so they can take advantage of the benefits and services they earned and deserve by calling 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7324 or by visiting www.maryland.va.gov. Let them know that help is just a phone call away for problems and issues that often don’t come to light until after they’ve been home. If you know a Veteran, remember to tell them "thank you for your service," for none of us could enjoy the freedoms we do without their sacrifice.
Dennis H. Smith
Director, VA Maryland Health Care System