NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak tendered a special recognition to all veterans, including the guest speaker.
“First and foremost,” said Tabak, “as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, Lt. Gov. Brown is the nation’s highest-ranking elected official to have served a tour of duty in Iraq. He knows firsthand what veterans face, both when they are deployed as well as when they return to their homes and families.”
Elected with Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2006 and reelected in 2010, Brown is a leader in providing all Marylanders with better health care, with a special focus on veterans services and resources.
“My 25 years of military service, including a tour of duty in Iraq in 2005,” he said, “has made me more aware of the debt we as a people owe to our veterans.
Brown stands center stage in Masur Auditorium, surrounded by fellow veterans at NIH’s first formal observance of Veterans Day.
“Veterans Day is a special day for all Americans, and especially for the 30,000 active military and 460,000 veterans who call Maryland home,” Brown continued. “It’s a day that we honor those men and women who have served—and those currently serving—on our behalf and pay tribute to those veterans who are not with us to celebrate.”
Alongside O’Malley, Brown worked with the Maryland General Assembly to pass the Veterans Behavioral Health Initiative. This set aside $2.3 million for behavioral health services and also created the Veterans Behavioral Health advisory board to help connect care providers with veterans.
Another new program—thanks in large part to Brown’s efforts—is the Maryland Veterans Network of Care, launched in 2009. This online resource provides Maryland’s vets with a virtual one-stop shop of every local, state and federal resource for behavioral health treatment.
Maryland was the first state in the country to launch this program.
And in July of this year, Brown also helped kick off the Maryland Homefront initiative to make home ownership more affordable for veterans and military families.
A Golden Retriever reclines on active duty with Hero Dogs, a Maryland non-profit that raises, trains and matches service dogs with injured or disabled military veterans at no cost to the veteran.
Photos: Office of the Governor of Maryland, Jeremy Swan
“When I was in Iraq,” said Brown, “I learned that no matter where people live, whether Baghdad or Baltimore, they want the same thing for their families—safe neighborhoods, good schools, access to health care and the opportunity to earn a living and raise a family.”
NIAID’s Mike Nealy (sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps) and Sara Crocoll (captain, U.S. Air Force) offered a remembrance. Service members and veterans in the audience then rose to sing the official songs of the Armed Forces: “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” “The Marines’ Hymn,” “Anchors Aweigh” and “The Air Force Song.”
Undergirding the tributes in speech, ritual and song is NIH’s commitment to recruit and hire veterans. As Tabak outlined NIH’s own veteran profile:
- We currently have more than 950 veterans employed.
- More than 100 of those were hired in fiscal year 2012, as a direct result of special outreach and recruitment efforts.
- More than a quarter of the veterans at NIH—roughly 265—are pursuing careers as scientific professionals.
- More than 260 of our NIH veterans are also living with disabilities.
Brown greets Colleen Barros, NIH deputy director for management, as NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak looks on.
“These men and women are still fighting for America on the front lines,” Tabak said, “but now their enemies are illnesses and health conditions such as Alzheimer’s, obesity and re-emerging infections.”
Following the celebration, exhibitors included the USO, with its comprehensive long-term care programs to support wounded, ill and injured troops; the Yellow Ribbon Fund, with caregiver programs, mentoring, support and scholarships for wounded warriors and spouses; and the Hero Dogs.
The mission of Hero Dogs, a Maryland non-profit, is to raise, train and match service dogs with injured or disabled military veterans at no cost to the veteran.
A plucky Golden Retriever was on active duty, picking up the cell phone and coins deliberately dropped onto the floor and then returning them to his trainer’s hands.
These programs and others are eligible for donations via the Combined Federal Campaign.
The NIH Veterans Day Celebration was organized by the Veterans Recruitment/Retention Force, with the assistance of the Office of Human Resources.
To learn more about the VRF, visit www.jobs.nih.gov/veterans.vrf.htm.