For more than 230 years, our brave service men and women have underwritten our freedom by duty, honor and selfless service. Come Nov. 11, Americans everywhere will give pause on Veterans Day to honor our men and women who have served in the armed forces.

Because of its size and abundance, it’s easy to forget how fortunate our nation really is. It’s easy to forget that the United States of America is more than a place. It’s an idea forged by the collective genius of a small group of idealistic men with vision and intellect that shaped a nation that cherishes freedom and where citizens pledge to a flag. It’s easy to forget that these ideals are manifested in the diversity and resolve of our people. Our diversity fuels our strength. Throughout history, service men and women have demonstrated our strength and resolve to preserve our freedom through their willingness to serve and sacrifice, defending freedom and the flag symbolizing it worldwide.

Ten years after the shocking 9-11-2001 terror attacks, we find ourselves still at battle, facing a new kind of challenge and fighting terrorist organizations unattached to any nation’s flag. Our troops embody our nation’s will and resolve to preserve our freedom. Thus it becomes our duty to support our troops and our veterans, who, at great personal sacrifice, enforce our will and resolve as a people.

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.” Let’s hang our flags this Veterans Day, but let’s also honor our nation’s veterans by proactively welcoming home the newly returned from deployment. You can also tell veterans who may not be enrolled for VA health care to drop by their local VA medical center or outpatient clinic, to call the VA Maryland Health Care System’s Enrollment Center at 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7324, or to visit our website at to enroll for VA health care. It may be the most important thing they do to assure their continued health and wellbeing. In addition, you can visit hospitalized veterans, mail them cards and notes, or commit to volunteering at a nearby VA health care facility by calling 1-800-949-1003, ext. 1136. Finally, you can teach your children to honor veterans by using resources that are available on the VA’s Veterans Day website at

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 your service!”

Dennis H. Smith
Director, VA Maryland Health Care System