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To our stalwart defenders: Thank you

History teaches us that our nation’s security doesn’t just happen — it demands effort, sacrifice, courage and commitment as evidenced by the generations of men and women who have underwritten our freedom by duty, honor and selfless service. This Veterans Day, Americans everywhere will give pause to honor our men and women who have worn the cloth of the nation, who have gone forth and sacrificed their bodies, minds and spirits to secure the liberties we often take for granted. On Veterans Day, which began as Armistice Day at the end of World War I, we say thank you to those stalwart defenders for their service.

Our country, the United States of America, is more than a place. It is an experiment in creating a more perfect union. Because of its size and abundance, it is easy to forget how fortunate our nation really is. A nation where more connects us than divides us. Even when America is filled with differing opinions, raucous debates, opposing philosophies and varying ideas of how to solve our nation’s problems, it comprises the elements of a living democracy — a democracy that our nation’s veterans served to protect.

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This is our country, founded upon individualism and diversity, held together by a singular spirit of unified strength embodied in our Constitution and delineated in our Bill of Rights. This is America, where people are free, all things are possible, and we protect each citizen’s right to express themselves when, where and how they choose within the legal, social and moral boundaries we have established as a free and open society. This is America, where differing voices, ideas and approaches blend us together into our best selves, which is reflected in the diversity of the men and women who served in our armed forces to defend these ideals.

President John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” So, let us hang our flags this Veterans Day, but let us also honor our nation’s veterans each and every day by proactively helping them to be a vital part of the society they helped to preserve. Because many have put their bodies and minds on the line and were part of a military culture that put mission before self, veterans may need an extra push to get the care they need and deserve. Veterans who have not applied for VA health care can drop by their local VA medical center or outpatient clinic, call 855-976-9618, or visit www.va.gov to apply. It may be the most important thing they do to assure their health and well-being. To further care for veterans, consider visiting hospitalized veterans or committing to volunteer at a nearby VA facility. As Americans, all of us can exercise empathy and compassion when it comes to helping veterans where and when they need it.

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At the VA Maryland Health Care System, every day is Veterans Day. We remain committed to providing the best care and service to the men and women who valiantly answered the call to serve in our nation’s armed forces. We are honored to join with millions of Americans in saying to our great Veterans: Thank you for keeping our flag and the freedom it represents flying high, representing the ideals which make our nation the beacon of light, liberty and justice.

Veterans, thank you for your service!

Dr. Adam M. Robinson Jr. is director of the VA Maryland Health Care System; he served as the 36th surgeon general of the United States Navy, overseeing both the U.S. navy and Marine Corps health care systems. He can be reached at vamhcspublicrelations@va.gov.

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