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Honor veterans by helping meet their medical needs | READER COMMENTARY

Jonathan LaTouche, 37, of Catonsville, left, signs up for information at New Visions House of Hope, a veterans support services group. (Maria Eberhart/Baltimore Sun).

Veterans Day, observed every year on Nov. 11 in honor of the end of World War I, is the day set aside to honor all of the men and women who have served our nation in uniform and to thank them for their service and sacrifice. Veterans have defended our nation with commitment, courage and duty from the American Revolution to the global war on terrorism.

Service requires much, and it begins with leaving their homes, their lives, their friends and their families. It requires training first to become a military person and then to develop skills necessary for specific jobs. It requires physical and mental agility when moving from one post to another, one duty station to the next. It requires adjusting to assigned paths and assigned duties and fortitude to adjust to leaving newly formed friends to move elsewhere to begin again. It requires work, commitment, courage and duty to serving the greater good.

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There are approximately 19 million veterans in the U.S., which is less than 10% of the total U.S. adult population. Currently, 9 out of 10 veterans are men, but the number of female veterans is expected to increase to 18% by 2046 (”A half century after joining the Army Nurse Corps, a woman reflects on the long ago choice, made as a girl,” Nov. 10). About 362,000 veterans call Maryland home.

We at the VA Maryland Health Care System are here to serve the unique needs of veterans of all eras regardless of their age or gender. With three inpatient facilities and five outpatient clinics located throughout Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Central Maryland, we are committed to providing safe, quality and compassionate care to veterans close to where they live and work. We are also extremely proud of our robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic by quickly embracing virtual care technologies to safely continue serving the health care needs of our veteran patients and for working tirelessly to vaccinate more than 45,000 veterans, their spouses and caregivers during the past year.

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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 by letting them know that their service and sacrifice has not been forgotten. This Veterans Day, you can thank and honor Maryland’s veterans by volunteering at your local VA Medical Center or outpatient clinic (send an email to VAMHCSVoluntaryService@va.gov), by encouraging veterans to enroll for VA health care (call 877-222-8387) or by visiting or calling veterans who are friends or family members.

As an Army veteran, I extend my gratitude to all veterans for answering the call to duty.

Jonathan R. Eckman, Baltimore

The writer is director of the VA Maryland Health Care System.

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