Be grate­ful for our vet­er­ans ev­ery day

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Adam M. Robin­son Jr Dr. Adam M. Robin­son Jr. is the direc­tor of the VA Mary­land Health Care Sys­tem. He can be reached at vamhc­spub­li­cre­la­tions@va.gov.

Nov. 11, 1918, was a his­toric day of peace, cel­e­brat­ing the end of World War I — the so-called “war to end all wars.” But while we have come a long way since Ar­mistice Day, the rav­ages and de­struc­tion of war con­tinue to plague our world and those men and women who sac­ri­ficed their bod­ies, minds and spir­its so that we can en­joy pros­per­ity and free­dom.

For more than two cen­turies, our ser­vice mem­bers have rep­re­sented, de­fended and pro­tected our lib­erty — at home and on for­eign soil. We have rou­tinely sent them to the world’s most tor­mented and con­flicted ar­eas. The present-day global war on ter­ror, with its so­phis­ti­cated tech­no­log­i­cal weapons, is no ex­cep­tion.

Across the na­tion, Vet­er­ans Day, as the an­niver­sary of Ar­mistice Day is now known, re­minds us to cher­ish and value the sac­ri­fice and ser­vice of those who have worn the cloth of the na­tion. The day is ob­served with cer­e­monies that demon­strate our ap­pre­ci­a­tion and grat­i­tude to the men and women who served. But if we ne­glect to go the ex­tra mile by show­ing com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy to­ward vet­er­ans dur­ing the rest of the year, these wide­spread ex­pres­sions of grat­i­tude ring hol­low.

Too many of our vet­er­ans have al­ready felt the sting of be­ing un­der­val­ued.

We sent troops to pro­tect free­dom in Korea, an un­de­clared war that was then re­ferred to as “a po­lice ac­tion.” More than 33,000 Amer­i­cans per­ished in that “po­lice ac­tion,” fight­ing for lib­erty in a for­eign land for peo­ple they never met. More than 848,000 re­turned home, in­clud­ing an es­ti­mated 86,300 women who served. Korean War Vet­er­ans re­fer to the Korean War as “the for­got­ten war” and some­times feel as if their ser­vice has been over­looked de­spite their hav­ing sur­vived Korea’s bit­ter win­ters, swel­ter­ing sum­mers and some en­dur­ing hellish con­di­tions within pris­oner-of-war camps. De­spite the lack of fan­fare for re­turn­ing Korean vet­er­ans, who traded mil­i­tary uni­forms for work clothes, they too served with honor and dis­tinc­tion.

We also sent troops to Viet­nam to pre­serve free­dom and con­tain Com­mu­nism. Ser­vice mem­bers re­turned from this un­pop­u­lar war only to be greeted with so much dis­re­spect and dis­dain at their home­town air­ports that they were fore­warned to re­move their mil­i­tary uni­forms be­fore dis­em­bark­ing their planes. They, too, served with dis­tinc­tion and honor, and to­day, we count more than 7 mil­lion liv­ing Viet­nam vet­er­ans who de­serve our grat­i­tude and re­spect for an­swer­ing the call to duty.

The VA Mary­land Health Care Sys­tem is here to serve vet­er­ans, and we con­sider it our sa­cred duty to do so; serv­ing vet­er­ans is why we ex­ist. And so on this day, and ev­ery day, we ex­tend our heart­felt grat­i­tude to all our vet­er­ans who proudly served in the armed forces. Thank you for be­ing part of a long, un­bro­ken line of men and women who have served this coun­try with dis­tinc­tion. Thank you for serv­ing on the beaches of Europe, in the jun­gles of Asia, on the deserts of the Mid­dle East and all over the world. Thank you for serv­ing on the home­front. Thank you for serv­ing in wartime and in peace. We are hum­bled by your ser­vice, your sense of duty, and most of all, your sac­ri­fices for our lib­er­ties.

Vet­eran and fam­ily cen­tered care is our goal, and we strive to pro­vide this care in a qual­ity and com­pas­sion­ate man­ner. As a 35-year long U.S. Navy vet­eran my­self, there is no greater way for me to con­tinue to serve our na­tion than by serv­ing my fel­low vet­er­ans and mak­ing sure they re­ceive the care they need, when they need it.

God Bless Amer­ica, and happy Vet­er­ans Day.

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