The plight of homeless veterans was the topic of the guest speech at Fort Meade’s 16th Annual Veterans Appreciation Day Luncheon Nov.3.
Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Jeffrey L. Kendrick, executive director of the Maryland Center for Veteran’s Education and Training in Baltimore and the event’s guest speaker, spoke passionately about the need to provide support for veterans who do not have a place to call home.
“If you see a homeless veteran, call me,” Kendrick said to an audience of 106 service members, veterans and civilians at Club Meade. “I’ll come get ‘em.”
Since 1993, the Maryland Center for Veteran’s Education and Training has worked to “successfully help homeless veterans in the Baltimore area and from across the nation achieve economic self-sufficiency and residential stability,” according to its promotion materials.
A Meade Tradition
The Veterans Appreciation Day Luncheon is a Fort Meade tradition co-sponsored by the Retired Officers’ Wives’ Club, the Enlisted Spouses’ Club, the Officers’ Spouses’ Club, the Association of the United States Army, the Military Officers’ Association of America, the Military Order of the World Wars and The Retired Enlisted Association.
The nearly four-hour event was organized by the Veterans Appreciation Day Committee, which was co-chaired by Audrey Rothstein, ROWC president, and club member Althea Freeman.
“It is so good to have all of you join us today,” Rothstein said in her welcoming remarks. “We have all come together to express once again our gratitude for the service, sacrifice and commitment of our veterans.”
Retired Col. Erwin Burtnick, a past commander-in-chief of the Fort Meade chapter of MOWW, served as the emcee. Garrison Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Stephen Pratel Sr. gave the invocation and benediction.
The National Security Agency Color Guard posted the colors. Navy veteran Katie Johnson, a member of ESC, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Chrissy Scott, a junior at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, sang the national anthem.
After lunch was served, the Archbishop Spalding High School Choral Group performed a medley of patriotic songs including “God Bless the USA,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America.”
Distinguished guests included Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Brian S. Cullen and his wife, Connie; Janice Chance, president and chaplain of the Maryland Chapter of American Gold Star Mothers; and Donna Robinson, a member of the Maryland Gold Star Mothers chapter.
In the back of the ballroom, the OSC provided a Wreaths Across America display to raise funds for its scholarship fund. The MOWW provided a display that featured information about the Fort Meade chapter’s activities and applications to join the organization.
Garrison Commander Col. Erich C. Spragg, who attended the event with his wife, Heather, greeted the audience. In brief remarks he paid homage to the nation’s veterans who “have stood watch over America’s peace.”
“The American people are grateful to our veterans and all who have fought for our nation,” he said.
Spragg said Veterans Day is a day of “tribute, reflection and most importantly, celebration.”
“Our community is made greater by those who have worn the uniform,” he said. “ … I’m proud to stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder with you here today.”
The Fallen Comrades Ceremony was led by retired Lt. Col. Hank Bellinger, whose wife, Genny, is an ROWC member. The purpose of the ceremony is to honor service members who are prisoners of war or missing in action.
Navy Cryptologic Technician Collections 3rd Class Ethan McNeelan of the Cryptologic Warfare Activity 6, lit the white candle during the ceremony, which Bellinger said symbolizes the service members’ “unconquerable spirit.”
Allison Braatz, a sophomore at Archbishop Spalding High School, played “Taps.”
Help For Veterans
In his guest speech, Kendrick shared how after serving in the Air Force for 23 years, he discovered his calling for helping veterans who, due to unfortunate circumstances, cannot help themselves.
“I’m helping my fellow veterans reclaim their place in society,” said Kendrick, who began his tenure at MCVET as a benefits counselor.
Kendrick said he committed himself to the cause of homeless veterans after helping Dotson Coleman, a homeless veteran of the Vietnam War, who came to MCVET to seek help in obtaining his Army ribbons and medals.
When Kendrick saw how moved Coleman was to finally be recognized for his service, he decided to help other veterans in need regain their dignity.
“I salute every man and woman who has served this county,” Kendrick said.
MCVET has helped nearly 10,000 veterans find employment and housing.
In closing, Kendrick said the nation’s veterans should be honored throughout the year and homeless veterans should never be an afterthought.
“Every day is Veterans Day,” he said.
After Kendrick’s speech, Rothstein and Freeman presented him a crystal plaque of appreciation and a check for $1,000 to further MCVET”s work in the community.
Retired Maj. Sullivan Brown Sr., a member of the Fort Meade chapter of MOWW, said Kendrick’s speech was “enlightening.”
“We should be more concerned about our veterans and their lifestyle after serving their country,” Brown said. “He spoke about things a lot of us did not know about or understand.”
Compiled by staff of the Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs office. For more information about what is happening on Fort Meade, visit www.ftmeade.army.mil and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ftmeade.