Dozens of veterans from across Maryland joined Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Congressman C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger to kick off Hugo Salutes Our Veterans' national campaign to distribute free canes to America's former servicemen at the Sam's Club in Timonium.
And though the event was the first in a nationwide campaign leading up to Veterans Day on Friday, local veterans who turned out for the event were glad for the awareness the event could raise in their local communities.
"It's really exciting, and we're very proud because for many years, veterans took care of veterans," said Melvin Smullen, department commander for the Maryland American Legion. "Veterans need to know that the entire community is there for them.
"The generation behind us must know that as well," he continued. "If they think the veterans won't be taken care of, they may not serve to the best of their ability.
Several members of the Kelly-Timonium American Legion post turned out to be honored at the ceremony, including Harry Young of Mays Chapel, who served in the China-Burma-India theater of World War II, and Leo Woerner, a Navy veteran from Timonium.
Paul Leuba of Cockeysville, who served in the Maryland National Guard, said events like this are important because they draw attention to the role veterans have played in building our nation.
"Right now, veterans are having a hard time getting jobs and reentering society after active duty," Leuba said. "Events like this raise awareness of that."
"You pass people who served in the military every day and you don't even think about it," added Clyde Winegard of Cockeysville. "People forget that their fathers, grandfathers, and family members served in the military. It's nice to be thought of and be appreciated."
Both the veterans and elected officials were honored that Hugo Salutes Our Veterans chose Timonium for its national kick-off event.
"As we all know in Maryland, we have a lot of military traditions," said Ruppersberger, who represents parts of Harford, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. "Just in my own district, we have Fort Meade, we have NSA (National Security Agency), and we have Aberdeen.
"We have a tremendous amount of veterans who have either lived here or raised their families, and I think it's great that they chose this jurisdiction."
Kamenetz added that the event was a "great opportunity" to show our respect and appreciation for the local men and women who served.
"We have a duty to support these men and women who have given so much on our behalf, and I'm so honored to see so many veterans here today," Kamenetz said to the gathered crowd. "(These canes) help disabled veterans stand tall and proud once again, like every soldier should."
"The gift they're giving is something any veteran could use," Smullen said.
The nationwide campaign, which was launched by AMG Medical, Inc., will give away 36,000 canes at Sam's Club stores nationwide from Wednesday, Nov. 9, through Friday, Nov. 11.