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HUGHESVILLE, Md. (Oct. 21, 2008)—Gary V. Hodge, a Charles County commissioner and chairman of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, has appointed a Regional Veterans Health Advisory Committee to assess the needs of veterans returning from military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Committee will be chaired by Thomas A. Mattingly, Sr., a St. Mary’s County commissioner.

Other members serving on the Committee will be Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell, Charles County Commissioner Samuel N. Graves, Jr., Calvert County Commissioner Susan Shaw, and Captain Constance A. Walker, USN (Ret).

Commissioner Hodge asked the Committee “to report back to the Executive Board and the Tri-County Council on specific actions that can be taken by local and State government to address the health and workforce training needs of our veterans returning home to Southern Maryland.”

The move follows a presentation made by Capt. Walker to the region’s elected officials attending the Tri-County Council’s September meeting about the challenges facing returning combat veterans and their families, particularly in rural areas.

During her presentation, Captain Walker said, “We need to hear from our returning veterans and their families about what they need as they transition from combat to community, and return to work and to civilian lives that support their future, and the future of their families. Reports indicate that a third of our veterans returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have, or will develop, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The national estimate is that one in five of our returning veterans have some degree of mild to moderate Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). These injuries can take months or years to reveal themselves. Those months and years can be devastating to veterans, families, and communities."

Walker continued: “Too many of our veterans are at risk for lifelong struggles with employment, family relationships, substance abuse, and in the worst case scenario: incarceration, homelessness, and suicide. To lose even one to any of these tragedies—and southern Maryland has already lost more than that—is too many. Until we meet and talk with our veterans and families, we can’t know what the range of issues may be. For our part, by actively engaging as a regional community and reaching out to our returning combat veterans—and to their families—we are then truly welcoming them home.”

Capt. Walker also testified in support of successful state legislation to create the Veterans Behavioral Health Advisory Board, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown. She now serves on that Board to help find creative solutions to meeting veteran needs across state programs and with federal partners.

Commissioner Mattingly commented, “Our regional committee will investigate barriers faced by our returning veterans to our rural region. What are the additional staffing needs of the clinic at Charlotte Hall? What workforce training opportunities are needed by veterans and their employers to help them reintegrate into our communities? We need solutions here in Southern Maryland instead of expecting our families to make the long trip to the Washington, D. C. or Baltimore Veterans’ Administration Centers for essential services and treatment.”

Source: Gary V. Hodge, Charles County Commissioners

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