ROCKVILLE – County Executive Marc Elrich looked over the crowd of veterans at a Nov. 10th Veterans Day Program in Rockville as he spoke on the responsibility the county has to help “people who put their lives on the line.”
About 50 veterans and their families participated in the fourth annual Jewish War Veterans Post 692 program held on the grounds of the Bender Jewish Community Center (JCC). Most of them served during the Vietnam War; the oldest was a 95-year-old veteran from the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
“We should always raise our voices in support of those who served,” Elrich said. It is important “to make sure when they come back, and we treat them with respect.”
Programs to assist veterans with their health care, including treatment for PTSD, “housing and job hunting are very important,” Elrich said.
Whether a war was popular or not, “the veterans never asked, never judged,” he said, adding that his father served during World War II, training pilots.
Newly re-elected Rockville City Councilmember Beryl Feinberg echoed that sentiment.
There needs to be more transition, health and social services, and hiring programs for veterans returning to civilian life, she noted.
She pointed to RedGate, the former municipal golf course that has been closed since the beginning of this year when its lease with the company that managed it ended.
While nothing yet has been decided on what to do with the property on Avery Road, there have been talks about using it for something other than a golf course.
Feinberg said she would like to see a home for veterans built there, which would make it only the second such home in Maryland.
Twenty-three million veterans are living in the United States, she said, noting, “We continue to be indebted to our veterans in ways we cannot imagine.”
It used to be that American soldiers protected the country, but now they also fight for “freedom around the world,” Feinberg said.
During his keynote speech, Col. Harvey Kaplan, U.S. Army (retired) spoke about his 27 years in active duty with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, serving both stateside and on two tours in Vietnam.
The native New Yorker was involved in combat support missions.
“We did construction and combat support,” he said, noting that he helped build heliports, roads, airfields and roads during his time in Vietnam.
During his service, he also was stationed at Fort Meade, which in those days was considered remote, he said. It was located near Washington, D.C., near Baltimore and near Annapolis, but there wasn’t much of a town there, he recalled.
He married and had three children while moving many times during his service. He spent time working with cadets at City College of New York, at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, three years in Frankfort, Germany and at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.
Throughout his military career, he was able to practice his Judaism and even celebrated the Jewish New Year and Passover together with other soldiers while in Vietnam, he told members of the Jewish War Veterans as they sat outside by the Jewish War Veterans Memorial located in the front of the JCC.
During the program, two singers and a keyboard player from Voices of Vets entertained the crowd with renditions of the official songs from each of the military branches.
Denise Nooe, deputy director of outreach and advocacy at the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of the Secretary, presented a proclamation for Veterans Day from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
She noted that many people serve, including those who work at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Public Health Services, both of which are located in Maryland.