An armistice ending the hostilities between Germany and the Allied Nations became effective on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Armistice Day, which was commemorated for the first time on November 11, 1919, became a legal holiday in 1938. Veteran service organizations urged Congress in 1954 to change the word "Armistice" to "Veterans," transforming it from a day honoring World War I heroes to one honoring all American veterans — particularly living veterans. A grateful nation annually honors and recognizes more than 23.4 million living veterans on November 11, paying respects to all who have answered the call to military service. Veterans Day provides an opportunity for all Americans to thank those who have served our nation in the armed forces.
Although our thoughts this year remain with those in distant war zones, we must also turn our attention to those veterans living among us, including many who recently returned from service and are facing the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life. This Veterans Day, I encourage all Marylanders to do more to honor those heroes who have served our country. While recognizing Veterans Day can be as simple as placing the American flag on your porch or reminding youngsters of a relative who served in the military, as a community we can do more. If you know a veteran, thank them for their service. A simple gesture of kindness can make a difference for someone struggling to make the transition from military to civilian life.
If you know a veteran who's not taking advantage of their VA health care benefits or who is struggling to find a job, reassure them that help is available. An astonishing number of veterans—including women who often do not self-identify as veterans—do not know about the VA health care services available to them. A phone call to enroll for VA health care may be the most important call they ever make to maintain their health and well-being. Tell a Veteran who may not be enrolled for VA health care that there are three ways to enroll: by visiting their local VA medical center or outpatient clinic; by calling the VA Maryland Health Care System's Enrollment Center at 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7324; or by visiting the health care system's website at http://www.maryland.va.gov and clicking on "Become a Patient."
At the VA Maryland Health Care System, we are committed to providing the best care and service to the men and women who valiantly answered the nation's call to serve in the armed forces. Veterans are us. They are our parents and grandparents, our children and grandchildren. On this Veterans Day, we are honored to join with millions of Americans in saying to our great veterans, "Welcome home! Thank you for your service! What can we do to help you?"
Dennis H. Smith, Baltimore
The writer is director of the VA Maryland Health Care System.