FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Nov. 8, 2012) -- Veterans are not asking for a handout.
That is the message retired Brig. Gen. George B. Price shared in his speech at the installation's Veterans Appreciation Day Luncheon on Saturday.
"Veterans are asking to be assimilated in the population at the same level they left," Price said. "They're not begging for somebody to do something for them. They're asking for those entitlements and benefits that they earned."
Price was the guest speaker at the annual luncheon held at Club Meade.
"It was very moving to hear someone who is saying what we feel," said retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jack Matthews, a Vietnam veteran.
The three-hour event attracted more than 250 people, twice the number of those who attended last year.
"People were very enthusiastic," said Lianne Roberts, president of the Retired Officers' Wives' Club, a co-sponsor of the event. "People wanted to celebrate our service members."
Other sponsors included the Association of the United States Army; Enlisted Spouses Club; Military Officers' Association of America; Military Order of the World Wars; Officers' Spouses' Club; and The Retired Enlisted Association.
Retired Col. Ed Cramer served as emcee of the event, which included the traditional Fallen Comrades Ceremony and a performance of patriotic songs by the West Point Alumni Glee Club.
Garrison Chaplain Col. Carl Rau gave the invocation. Patricia Baker, president of the ESC, led the recital of the "Pledge of Allegiance." Mary Gray, president of TREA Chapter 24, sang the National Anthem.
Before Price's speech, Rep. John Sarbanes made brief remarks to pay homage to veterans and the military.
"This is such an important recognition of our veterans," Sarbanes said.
The congressman said that although this is an election year, the country is united behind veterans.
"When it comes to our veterans, there is a solidarity that is a tribute to what it means to be a patriot in America that I think is singular and exceptional in the world," Sarbanes said. "We come together across party lines, across all walks of life to honor the sacrifice and commitment that our Soldiers make."
Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein welcomed the audience.
"What a great morning and an opportunity to spend with you, from our Buffalo Soldiers, from World War II veterans, to Korea, to Vietnam and to the wars that are existing today," he said.
The one- to two percent of men and women who serve in the military, said Rothstein, "serve our country strong."
The strength behind those service members are their families, friends and home communities, he said.
Price began his speech by calling his visit to Fort Meade "a homecoming. ... There's enough camaraderie and good feelings to go around."
Fort Meade was his last active-duty assignment in a career that included serving at every level of command and staff, from platoon leader to assistant commander and battalion staff.
From 1976 to 1978, Price served as the chief of staff of First Army.
Veterans, he said, deserve the nation's "undying and untiring support" as they transition from their military service to civilian life.
"They deserve the same dignity and pride that you would heap upon somebody if they were a great athlete that just hit the home run that won the World Series," Price said.
Contrary to the often-common portrayal of veterans as in distress and homeless, Price said most veterans "are adjusted, are successful in their second careers, have made enormous contributions to our country and are moving on with their lives."
But for those who do face obstacles, "we're obligated to take care of those veterans that need help," Price said. "[Help] is a little broader requirement than just saying 'thank you.' "
Veterans need to feel welcome, respected and appreciated for their service and for the contributions they continue to make to society, he said, and the nation must value the world view that veterans bring to the table.
"Let's be sure to capitalize on their skills," said Price, noting that veterans know firsthand the value of life, service and sacrifice.
To close his speech, Price said it is time for the nation "to come together for a common cause. ... [Let's] make things right for the veterans and everyone else who is disenfranchised by the system, and be proud to be an American."
Retired Staff Sgt. Tyrone Johnson, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Odenton Chapter, Post 5712, said he was impressed by Price's remarks.
"He brought up a lot of points that we need to think about ... that veterans don't want a handout, but a hand up," Johnson said. "We're not asking for anything we didn't earn. Assimilate us back into society. We're back. Just accept us as we are and let us live our lives."