Harford County held a veterans' muster in Bel Air Saturday, an event designed to get Harford and Cecil County veterans connected with the appropriate services, as well as to honor veterans of the Vietnam War era and women who served during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War eras.
"I think it's always good when veterans can come out and meet other veterans, and learn about what benefits are available to them," Evie Remines, senior vice commandant of the Harford County Marine Corps League, said. "Some of them just aren't aware of what's out there, what they're entitled to."
Remines, who served in the Marine Corps Reserve during the 1990s, and her fellow league members, were among the service providers and local, state and national veterans' organizations who occupied a room in the William N. McFaul Activities Center.
"We're going to do just about anything we can do to support our fellow veterans and service members, and the community," Ed Daly, chairman of the Noncommissioned Officer Association's Four States Liberty Chapter 1661, said.
The chapter serves veterans in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey who were military noncommissioned officers. Daly, a Bel Air resident, is a retired Army sergeant major.
The muster was hosted by the Harford County Commission on Veterans' Affairs. Organizers said about 50 veterans came by during the program.
"Our job is to represent the veterans in Harford County," Annie Brock, chairperson of the commission, said.
Brock and some vendors described the muster as an ideal way to reach veterans in need of support services.
"I think the more we go out and present, the more people will tell other veterans," Russ Biondo, a veterans' benefit specialist with the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, said.
Veterans also could bring their personal documents to be shredded through Chesapeake Shredding,
Phil Surace, supervisor of the Disabled American Veterans office in Baltimore, spoke about benefits available to veterans.
The federal Department of Veterans Affairs was in Congress' cross hairs last week in the wake of reports that veterans have died while waiting for medical care at VA centers and that staffers at those clinics allegedly falsified records documenting the wait times before a patient is seen.
Brock, of the Harford commission, acknowledged the "slow processing time" for claims though the Baltimore VA center, which serves veterans living in Cecil and Harford.
"Health care here is excellent," she said. "Once you've had your claim processed you don't go through the hoops it takes to get an appointment in other places."
Brock recommended veterans visit their local civilian hospital if they are in need of emergency care.
Female veterans honored
Saturday's event included recognition of Vietnam veterans and women who were members of the Women's Army Corps, the Women Airforce Service Pilots, Women in the Air Force, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service and U.S. Coast Guard Women's Reserve.
Those organizations, which gave American women the opportunity to serve in uniform from World War II until 1978, were auxiliary organizations who provided support services to troops at home and overseas.
"While the women are the smallest percentage of veterans, they were the nurses; they took the jobs and filled in while men fought," Mary Moses, of the Harford Commission on Veterans Affairs, said.
Moses represents the Women's Army Corps Veterans Association on the commission.
"They're finally getting the recognition," Moses said. "It's been a long road."
Women served in support roles until the late 1970s, when they were moved into regular military jobs – direct combat roles remained closed to them until 2013.
"For the women today, the outlook is totally different," Moses said.
Brock was among the women who integrated the regular Army. She was one of the first 100 female soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division.
She earned her senior jump wings and was later commissioned into the Army's Medical Service Corps.
Brock eventually became a Medevac helicopter pilot; she served from 1979 to 1988.
Today, the Bel Air resident operates a home-based business, Annie Brock & Co. LLC, a leadership training and coaching firm.
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Her father also served in the military during World War II. She said he was one of the "Ritchie Boys," a group of German Jews who fled Nazi Germany and were trained to be spies in the European Theater.
They were trained at the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Training Center at Ft. Ritchie in Western Maryland.
Remines, the Marine reservist, said she was activated during the 1991 Gulf War and stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
"I have more young girls approach me and ask me about my military service, and I always encourage the young ladies, or young men, to join the service," she said.
Remines said she feels the military helps young people "mature a bit, gets them out on their own." She noted her son has found such a foundation serving in the Air Force.
She said she is glad to see women getting the same opportunities as men in the military.
"Even if a woman doesn't succeed at something, just the fact that it's being offered now is a step forward," she said.