15 December 2023 MDVA News and Announcements

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Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs

News and Announcements  -  December 15, 2023


Message from Secretary Anthony Woods:

Primary Logo

Dear Friends,

This week, Governor Wes Moore declared 2024 to be the Year for Military Families in Maryland.  He also announced a legislative package designed to support service-members, families, caregivers, and survivors.

The first legislative announcement by the Moore-Miller administration for the 2024 legislative session include the Families Serve Act, encouraging preferential hiring for active-duty military spouses by both private sector employers and state government, and the Time to Serve Act, granting paid military leave to state employees who are members of the National Guard or Reserves.

Senator Dawn Gile (District 33), with support from the Governor, also unveiled a bill to rename the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs to the Maryland Department of Veterans and Military Families.

You may read more about the Governor’s announcement here.

This is an exciting time for the Department and we stand ready to fulfill our mission to serve veterans, servicemembers, and their families.




Governor Moore's announcement

Lt. Governor Aruna Miller, Maryland's First Lady Dawn Moore, Governor Wes Moore, Yolanda Rayford, Chapter Director Baltimore/Chesapeake Blue Star Families, Maryland State Senator Dawn Giles and MDVA Secretary Tony Woods participate in the Governor's announcement proclaiming 2024 as the Year for Military Families.

Photo courtesy of the Executive Office of the Governor

MDVA Memorial Program Announcement

Gold Star Families Memorial Monument Improvement Project


The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, located just north of the World War II Monument in Annapolis, will be closed for construction starting December 7, 2023.  The estimated reopen date is May 3, 2024. 

Improvements to the monument location include the installation of a new parking lot on the north side of Chase Road.  New lighting and an ADA-accessible route from the parking lot to the monument will also be installed.  The monument will be newly landscaped to accommodate the parking and lighting modifications.  There will be no impact to the monument itself.

For safety reasons, the monument will not be accessible to the public during this time. 

Maryland is home to a second Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in Havre De Grace.  Citizens are encouraged to visit this monument located at 911 Ontario Street, Havre De Grace, Maryland 21078.

Thank you for your patience during this project.  We look forward to a new and improved site for all Marylanders to visit in Spring 2024.

Women Veterans Chat

MDVA Website

Colonel Erwin Burtnick

Secretary Anthony Woods, met with Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum of the Jewish Uniformed Service Association when paying a Shiva visit to the family of the late Colonel Erwin Burtnick, USA (retired).

Colonel Burtnick was a former Department of Maryland Commander of the Jewish War Veterans (Jewish War Veterans was founded in 1896 and is the longest continuously running VSO). Colonel Burtnick was also a commissioner on the Maryland Veterans Commission.

Baltimore Jewish Time article

Celebration of Life

The Celebration of Life ceremony for former MDVA Secretary George Owings drew a standing room only crowd to American Legion Post 206 in Chesapeake Beach.  Secretary Woods led the Pledge of Allegiance and also presented a Maryland State Flag to the Owings family.

SoMDNews.com article

University of Maryland 2

Secretary Woods spoke to students in the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business about choosing careers in public service and their potential to have a positive impact using the skills they've attained at the Smith School.  Secretary Woods is also a graduate of this program.

West Point

Secretary Woods also spoke with the West Point Alumni Chapter in Baltimore.  The meeting was held at Reveille Grounds, a new Veterans space in Baltimore.

Harford County event

Dana Burl, on the far right is the Director of the MDVA Communications, Outreach, and Advocacy  and Maryland's Ask the Question Campaign lead. Dana joined the Harford County Crisis Intercept Mapping team to train them on screening for military service and how to refer to service member, veteran, and family resources.  The meeting began with remarks from William Yeske, Damn the Valley book author and US Army Veteran.

Pictured: Silvana Bowker, Harford County Health Department, Melissa Huber, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Simon Ballard, Harford County Veterans Resource Coordinator , William Yeske, US Army Veterans and Damn the Valley Author, Bob Brown, Harford County Veterans Commission, Raj Goel, Harford County Office of Economic Development, and Dana Burl, Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs.

State Partner News

Annapolis Starbucks

Governor Moore, Lt. Governor Miller and Secretary Woods have a coffee conversation with military families and advocates in Annapolis. Read more here

Photo courtesy of the Executive Office of the Governor

Spotlight on Education

New logo

At American University, we're extremely proud of our Veteran and Military affiliated students and value their unique perspectives, intellectual diversity, and experience. The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs believes veterans and active service members are more likely to thrive in Maryland when their families are healthy and resilient. Through the Maryland Joins Forces initiative, which is designed to mobilize partners across sectors - including education - to meaningfully address issues affecting veteran and military families, prospective graduate students who are military-connected, or are the spouse or dependent of a military-connected service member, are eligible to be considered for this new Graduate Scholarship for Maryland Veterans and Military Families.

  • $10,000 tuition scholarship to Maryland military-connected community members (defined as Maryland residents who are: Veterans, current service members, and spouses and children of Veterans or current service members) who are admitted to American University for an eligible graduate degree program.

Students will apply directly to the program of interest and will use the following waiver code when prompted by the application: Maryland_Joins_Forces. Read More Here

Caregiver Survey from the Maryland Department of Health

Dear Caregiver:

As the “Voice of the Caregiver” the Maryland Commission on Caregiving wants to know more about the experiences of family caregivers in the state and we need your help!

Family caregivers are people who assist adults aged 18 or older with disabilities, illnesses, diseases, or limitations that make it hard for them to take care of themselves. Caregivers help with things like personal care, household chores, managing money, arranging services from others, or regularly visiting to check on how they are doing.

We have developed a 15-minute online and anonymous survey that asks questions about the person being cared for and the caregiver’s knowledge of available programs and priorities for supports and services. If you care for someone, we would appreciate it if you could take the time to complete the survey through the link below. If you aren’t a caregiver but know other caregivers, please consider forwarding this email to them so we can obtain as many responses as possible.

If you complete the survey, you will have the chance to enter a raffle where 50 people will be randomly chosen to get a $20 e-gift card.

Results from the survey will be shared publicly with special attention to legislators and the Departments of Human Services, Disabilities, Aging, and Health to improve policies and programs for MD caregivers just like you! The survey will remain open until December 31, 2023.

Thank you for your consideration to participate.


Be the driver

News from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources

First Day Hikes Scheduled for 2024 New Year’s Weekend

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) invites all Marylanders to take a First Day Hike — the annual tradition for a fun, healthy way to welcome the New Year. Maryland State Parks will be offering First Weekend hike opportunities across the state from December 31, 2023 – January 2, 2024. Read more.

Maryland’s Muzzleloader Deer Hunting Resumes December 16

The second half of Maryland’s muzzleloader deer hunting season will reopen Dec. 16 and run through Dec. 30. The first half of the split season was held in October. Hunters may use muzzleloading firearms to harvest sika and white-tailed deer during this time.
Read more.

Federal Partner News

Federal News

VA Health and Benefits Mobile App

Improving access and outcomes for homeless women Veterans

Thank You, Million Veteran Program participants

VA War Related Illness & Injury Study Center Newsletter

Protect your benefits from scammers during the holiday season

PTSD Bytes: Social media use and PTSD

A conversation about Veteran suicide prevention can save a life

VA Mindfulness meditation classes for Veterans offered via telephone

Live Whole Health #199: Playing with your schedule

Caregiving through the holidays

How Families Can Support Veterans' Mental Health

VA and Federal Trade Commission: Keep Your Finances Safe This Holiday Season

More than 3 million volunteers to take part in National Wreaths Across America Day

Music by Veterans for Veterans

FBI Baltimore Warns ‘Tis the Season for Holiday Scams

As many of us will be shopping online this holiday season for the convenience of avoiding the crowds and finding that deal; be aware that shopping online also provides a unique opportunity for would-be scammers.

During the holiday season, scammers become more creative and bold while preying on the unsuspecting consumer.

FBI Baltimore Supervisory Special Agent Keith Keith Custer shares tips for avoiding holiday scams on WJZTV:  https://youtu.be/1hD-N6qaBXI?si=F3s4MKruWwiaVp4c

Helpful websites: 




Community Partner News

For Your Information

The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs does not endorse the organizations sponsoring these events, and we do not endorse the views they express or the products/services they offer.  The views and opinions expressed in any referenced document do not necessarily state or reflect those of MDVA.  The information provided is intended for your general knowledge only, and serves solely as a MDVA community outreach effort.

Frederick County Collaborative

Secretary Woods speaks to the Frederick County Community Veterans Engagement Board Meeting.

Community Calendar

December 19, 2023

Arundel Lodge Operation Sleigh Ride for Veterans and their families, Edgewater

Community News

Honoring Maryland's Hidden Heroes: Holiday Spectacular at Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs is proud to partner with The Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for a special holiday concert honoring Maryland’s Hidden Heroes and Hidden Helpers. Join us and other military caregiving families for the Holiday Spectacular running on Dec. 22-23! Sign up for complimentary tickets below. Once the form is completed, you will be directed to a promo link on the Baltimore Orchestra Symphony's website where you can select seats and receive complimentary tickets. *Limited spots, first-come, first-served basis.  Parking will not be covered but will be a discounted rate of $5. 

Registration Link

Mission Beelieve's Intro Course is opening for the Spring of 2024.The course will be held virtually through Zoom every Tuesdays from 7p-9:30p  (Eastern Standard Time and the last 30min are for Q&A) beginning 02/12/2024 and ending 03/18/2024. Down Below is the link for early registration. If you already participated, but want sign up again. Register again, the class is available to retake as many times as you'd like.  Register

Pilot, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy

Colonel Shreve

Here is the second installment of the story of Colonel Arthur Shreve, written by his granddaughter, Heather Shreve.

Part II : Chief of Artillery to POW

Arthur, Julia, and the boys enjoyed the summer of ’41 on their Howard County farm, ‘Our Decision.’ In August, Arthur receives a letter from the War Department at Fort DuPont calling him to duty as Quartermaster in the Philippines. In preparation, Arthur finds Julia and the boys a residence in the city so the boys can attend school and be near people. They settle on a house in Roland Park, 502 Wingate Road.

Arthur leaves the farm October 25, 1941…

Onboard a steamer to the islands, Arthur realizes they’ve sent every officer he's served under, over, or with, as there were so few officers at the time. He was there with West-pointer COL David Babcock, his best friend, and other good friends like Joe Ganahl, Ed Williams, and Bob Lindsay. Arthur is the highest-ranking mustang there among all West Point grads.

Arthur arrives in Manila Nov. 21, 1941 and reports to GEN George Parker, Commander of the South Luzon Force/Corps II who immediately gives Arthur a second job―Chief of Artillery, approved by USAFFE (United States Armed Forces Far East) and General MacArthur.

Even though it was against army regs, Arthur begins keeping a journal.

The first thing Arthur does is survey Luzon and finds the S.E. corner at Atimonan and Lamon Bay to be a probable landing as the other side of the Japanese ‘Mousetrap’ tactic. The Navy thinks it's too shallow; Arthur disagrees and goes to MacArthur’s HQ twice to request more artillery for this position…but even his friend Everett ‘Ed’ Williams is unable to persuade GEN Edward King it’s valid.

At 4 a.m. December 8, Arthur gets the call―Pearl Harbor has been hit and they are on 24-hour alert...and expected to be next. 

On December 21st the Japanese land 43,000 troops in N.W. Luzon at Lingayen Gulf and in the wee hours of December 24th Arthur returns to Atimonan to check his position. He rousts his recon office, MAJ Lightfoot from a sound sleep in a small Filipino hotel. Suddenly, the Filipino proprietor yells---LOOK! At the window in the blue dawn, they watch Japanese destroyers, cruisers, and 40 transport boats come around Alabat Island—the entire 16th Japanese Naval Division, unopposed and heading for shore.

…and the Fall of Bataan begins.

Back at HQ, Parker gives Arthur a field-upgrade to full-bird Colonel and a letter of proof. And, per War Plan Orange, they are in a fighting retreat into Bataan. In February Arthur suffers an attack and taken to a Lami Field Hospital where they operate to remove his appendix. 

In March 1941, GEN Wainwright takes over as Commanding the US Forces after MacArthur leaves the islands and promotes King to C.O. of the Luzon Force. Ironically, on March 21, Arthur gets a call from Ed Williams and asks if he would like to be on King’s staff. Of course, he accepts and coordinates gas, food, and water to run out at the same time…he thinks no later than mid-April. 

By April, they have already eaten 250 horses and 48 mules of the 26th Calvary, starting with Wainwright's horse. On April 9, 1942 General King surrenders to GEN Homma and sends the two bachelors on his staff―Ed Williams and Marshall Hurt to carry the white flag forward.

Now, 12,000 American soldiers and 65,000 Filipinos become POWs in the largest US surrender since the battle of Harpers Ferry in the Civil War.

Since Arthur is on American Command, he is driven in an Army Staff car to Camp O'Donnell…and does not walk the Death March. Of course, he passes at least one friend (according to his diaries) MAJ Ganahl…who has a head wound. At one point a Japanese NCO forces my grandfather from the staff car, searches him, and at bayonet point, urges to escape into the jungle…which of course Arthur refuses to do.

When Arthur arrives at O'Donnell, there is only one spigot for what will be 75,000 men. He asks King if he can volunteer to fix it, even though it’s against army regs for officers to work under the Geneva Convention Rules. King finally says, “you've got the job!”

My grandfather enlists anyone from the Army Corps of Engineers well enough to work to help him dig trenches to fix the water situation. Next, Arthur volunteers to greet the catatonic and bewildered men on the Death March who start to stumble into camp, both Filipino and American …Even though he is suffering from malnutrition, Arthur triages and billets the hopeless, the broken, the salvageable, and the unsalvageable into barracks, all of them until it's done, which takes him two and half weeks. 

In June ‘42, Arthur and the remaining POW's are moved to Camp Cabanatuan. The Japanese order the Americans to form their own command to oversee themselves. A tough 50-year-old marine COL Curtis Beecher takes command and makes Arthur Executive/ 3rd in charge.

Meanwhile back in Washington D.C., plans have been hatched to infiltrate the camp by way of a special Intel Operation using Filipino Resistance and the MIS-X in Manila to make contact, retrieve information of POW’s condition, and any strategic information that could turn the war against the Japanese. 

Arthur insists they use the secret operation for humanitarian purposes… and at the same time, Beecher offers Arthur one of the only jobs outside of camp. Arthur doesn’t hesitate and soon is cutting wood in the Sierra Madres Mountains for the kitchens where he will be able to make contact with the Resistance. 

To Be Continued…

For more photos and information

News from Community Building Art Works:

Glowing in the Dark - Wednesday, December 20th at 7pm EST (Virtual)

Join CBAW for Glowing in the Dark, our annual winter solstice reading. Hosted by Hari Alluri and Seema Reza, and featuring readings from writers whose work sustains us, helps us to balance the light and darkness in both bright and difficult times. Featuring readings by Anne Barlieb, Chen Chen, Tarfia Faizullah, Aracelis Girmay, Brionne Janae, Arthur Kayzakian, and more. Please bring a candle to light with us. Stay after the reading for our Visual Art Program with Veteran and Artist, Shaun Smith. Bring your medium of choice to learn how to paint a flame. Register at: https://GlowingInTheDark.eventbrite.com.

Military Spouses, Caregivers & Veterans Writing Workshop - Thursday, December 21st at 3:30pm EST (Virtual)

Join author Laura Van Prooyen on the first and third Thursdays at 3:30pm EST to learn how to use writing as a tool to communicate, self-discover, and reflect in our series in partnership with Blue Star FamiliesRegister here.

Creative Writing with Seema Reza -  Every Friday at 12pm EST (Virtual)

No experience required! If you can think, you can write. In this creative writing workshop, we'll consider writing as a tool for communication, expression, and relief from holding it all together. Join us any Friday afternoon. Visit www.cbaw.org/events.

More Than One Story - Next Virtual Orientation January 9th

Our monthly program for Women and Non-Binary Military has begun, but if you are still interested in participating, it's not too late. Interested individuals must attend an upcoming orientation to participate. Visit www.cbaw.org/mtos for more details.

Visit www.cbaw.org to learn more about Community Building Art Works. For more information, email info@cbaw.org.

At ServingTogether we provide local veteran resources, information and services to Active Duty service members, Veterans, Family members and Caregiver in the DMV region. We do this through Coordinated care, Community education and our Collaborative. Below you will find some information on all three approaches of care and outreach

Community Resources

ServingTogether, a program of EveryMind, was launched in 2011 to coordinate community-based resources for service members, veterans and their families in the MD/NoVa/DC region. Our mission is to make it easier for all those who have served in the Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves, and their families to access the local services they need. 

We are affiliated with a larger network of coordinated care, with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) initiative called AmericaServes. We are one of 18 communities throughout the United States serving as a hub of health and human service related providers. The goal is to help reduce down the number of times a veteran or military-connected individual has to get bounced around to different providers or lost in seeking to find the right resource. This also allows us to be connected to a broader community of providers throughout the United States, and refer veterans to the closest provider to their community.

ServingTogether’s Peer Navigators connect service members, veterans, their family members and caregivers, regardless of rank, service era or discharge status, to specific resources to best fit their needs. From benefits and education assistance to financial, health care, legal and employment resources, ServingTogether’s staff connects military and veterans with opportunities and resources they may not even be aware of in the area.

To contact the Peer Navigators, please visit www.servingtogetherproject.org and complete the Get Assistance form on the website, or call 1-855-738-7176.

Community Education

ServingTogether works to educate the entire DMV community on the needs of military and veterans in the National Capital Region. Since 2012, ServingTogether staff has been trained to provide Mental Health First Aid workshops focusing on Military, Veterans and their Families. Mental Health First Aid teaches the warning signs of mental illness and addiction, as well as how to help someone experiencing a mental health related crisis. By attending a Military/Veteran Mental Health First Aid, our military and veterans become more aware of the support available in their community and help to break down the stigma associated with mental illness. To date, ServingTogether has trained over 650 Mental Health First Aiders in how to better understand military culture and the unique needs of our military and veteran populations, especially to support improved mental wellness. ServingTogether is funded to provide 4 Military/Veteran Mental Health First Aid workshops per year.

We are also connected to various experts in the region and can work to coordinate a workshop or training to meet the needs of providers and community stakeholders in the National Capital Area.

Visit www.ServingTogetherProject.org for upcoming events, information, helpful guides & checklists, and more. Sign up for our weekly newsletter that highlights events and information pertinent to the veteran population in the National Capital Region.

Community Collaboration

ServingTogether helps to coordinate or is members of various Collaboratives, Committees and Councils related to our military and veteran community. We chair 5 community collaboratives which provide an opportunity to network, share, learn and interconnect to other area community providers. To learn more about them, visit: https://servingtogetherproject.org/collaboratives/

Message for New Subscribers:

Is this your first edition of the MDVA newsletter?  If so, welcome!  You are receiving this newsletter because you signed up to receive it from our website or you gave permission to an MDVA program, the MD Motor Vehicle Administration or MD Department of Labor to receive information on VA benefits and resources.  We at MDVA respect your privacy and DO NOT share your email address.  We hope you enjoy receiving our bi-weekly newsletter and find it both educational and engaging.  If you have questions about our Department, our Programs, or your VA benefits, please visit veterans.maryland.gov or call 410-260-3838.