29 December 2023 MDVA News and Announcements

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Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs

News and Announcements  -  December 29, 2023

Happy New Year



Message from Secretary Anthony Woods:


Dear Friends - 

As we approach the end of another remarkable year, it's a time for reflection and anticipation. This year has been a journey of significant achievements for our veterans' community. 

We began reforms at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home and made progress toward establishing a second Veterans home in Sykesville. 


Working with partners in the legislature, we saw the passage of historic tax cuts for military retirees, expanded healthcare coverage for members of the Maryland National Guard, and eliminated the cost of burial honors for eligible spouses. 

We renewed our commitment to the Governor's Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families and launched  'Maryland Joins Forces' to better support military families, veteran caregivers, and survivors. Additionally, we established a new commission to create a Global War on Terrorism memorial to honor those impacted by those conflicts.

However, amidst these accomplishments, our hearts were heavy as we bid farewell to cherished members of our veteran community, including former Secretary George Owings III and Maryland Veterans Commissioner Erwin Burtnick. Their contributions will forever be etched in our memories.

Looking ahead to 2024, we are filled with anticipation as we commence the legislative session with a focus on elevating military families. The New Year holds promise, and we are ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities it brings.

As we celebrate this holiday season, it's important to remember that it can be a challenging time for many. If you or someone you know is dealing with a mental health crisis, please call 988 and press 1 to connect with someone who can assist. 




MDVA Website

Dr. Biden photo

First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden and MDVA Secretary Anthony Woods attended an event announcing a new partnership between the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes and Blue Star Families.  This partnership is focused on reducing unemployment for military spouses.

Read More Here

MDVA benefits Training

The MDVA Service and Benefits staff paused for a full day of training in December.  They were briefed by both state and federal trainers to make sure they had the latest information on assisting Veterans and filing fully developed claims.  In this photo, Secretary Woods is kicking off the training day and thanking the staff for their work assisting Veterans.

In other Service & Benefit program news, MDVA sends sincere congratulations and thanks to Janet Thomas who recently retired.  Janet served as an Area Supervisor for the Benefits program and staffed the Easton office.  We wish her well in her retirement. 

Aaron Awkward who works in the Camp Springs MDVA office is now the new Area Supervisor.  Congratulations, Aaron!

Employee Awards

Secretary Woods recognized MDVA employees at the end of the year.  In the top photo are: Mikel Hicks, Director of Fair Practices with Steven Wright, Equipment Operator at Crownsville Cemetery.  Middle photo: James Johnson, Grounds Supervisor at Garrison Forest Cemetery and Loreasa Minor who worked at Garrison Forest when the photo was taken, but is now the Assistant Superintendent at Crownsville Cemetery. Last photo: Althea Gibson, HR Analyst and Secretary Woods.  Also honored, but not in photo: Cynthia D'Amico, Assistant Superintendent at Garrison Forest.

Voices of Vets Holiday Concert.  Voices of Vets performs at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home.

State Partner News

MCV January Training

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.

Youth and Veteran Waterfowl Hunt Event Scheduled for Feb. 3

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Maryland Sportsmen’s Foundation, is offering a special hunting opportunity for all military veterans and youth hunters aged 11-16. Applications are currently being accepted with a closing date of January 7, 2024. Read more.

Cold-Stunning Threatens Sea Creatures - Marylanders Can Help

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources asks those visiting the Chesapeake Bay or Atlantic Coast to be vigilant of sea turtles who exhibit signs of cold-stunning, a condition that causes animals to become debilitated and experience hypothermia-like symptoms due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. Read more.

Maryland Park Rangers Bring Bald Eagles to the White House

Rehabilitated bald eagles Buck and Mo, along with a contingent of Maryland Park Service Rangers, were invited to the White House to celebrate the anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, which was signed into law 50 years ago this week. The two eagles are part of Maryland's Scales & Tales program, an environmental initiative that fosters stewardship of wildlife and natural resources. Read more

Firearm Hunting for Deer Resumes in Maryland Jan. 5

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will open the January firearm deer hunting season in Deer Management Region B, which includes all of the state except the westernmost counties. Hunters with a valid hunting license may use firearms to harvest sika and white-tailed deer during this season. Read more.

Spotlight on Education: Morgan State University

Morgan Job Fair

Federal Partner News

Federal News

Veteran Homelessness increased nationally by 7.4% in 2023

VA PACT Act Performance Dashboard

January 17th: VA Wellness Wednesday Financial Educational Series

VA proposes fee process changes that would allow Veterans, their attorneys, claims representatives to receive fees or benefits faster

Video: Visiting the Future Site of the National VA History Center

Video: Million Veteran Program, Housing Homeless Veterans, Coping with Holiday Stress...

VA Virtual Health Care Options

Finding Hope after Loss

Live Whole Health #200: Under pressure? Find relief for low back pain

Live Whole Health #201: Time to set your New Year's Intention

VA Dietician rooting for root vegetables

Free Online Gaming Leagues for Veterans

Applications being accepted for the DAV Patriot Boot Camp for entrepreneurs

Southeast Conservation Corps' Veterans Fire Corps Program Seeking Veterans

Small Business Administration Baltimore Metro Women's Business Center Accelerate to Success; Barbara A Robinson Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program January 19 -21, 2024. More Information

News for Caregivers

You can connect with other caregivers in similar situations by joining a Building Better Caregivers® (BBC) online workshop.

When you join a 6-week BBC online workshop, you will:

  • Connect with caregivers by logging in at your convenience.
  • Set weekly goals and get support in achieving them.
  • Learn new ways to take care you this holiday season.

Stanford University developed the BBC workshop to support caregivers of Veterans of all eras.  Caregivers must meet the criteria and be willing to participate in the VA Caregiver Support Program in either the Program of Comprehensive Assistance (PCAFC) or the Program of General Caregiver Support Services (PGCSS) programs. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Caregiver Support Program (CSP) is on a mission to empower caregivers, raising awareness and equipping them with essential lifesaving skills in the form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In collaboration with the American Red Cross, CSP created a Hands-Only CPR training video, which can be seen here and is also available on CSP’s national website.

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.

Community Calendar

January 7, 2024

Blue Star Families Spaces for Belonging Virtual Trivia NightRegister

January 17, 2024

VA Wellness Wednesday Financial Education

January 18, 2024

Maryland's Commitment to Veterans Monthly Workshop: Innovations in Suicide Risk Screening, Assessment and Treatment, Registration

January 19-21, 2024

Small Business Administration Baltimore Metro Women's Business Center Accelerate to Success; Barbara A Robinson Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program January 19 -21, 2024. More Information

Community News

Blue Star Families is sponsoring Spaces for Belonging for LGBTQIA+ Military Youth. The next meeting is Virtual Trivia Night on January 7th.  More Information and Register


Save the Date: March 20th American Legion Post 82 in La Plata - Tri-County Veterans Resource Day


Save the Date: April 25th - Career Transition Showcase: Placement opportunities for military and their spouses, Hanover

News from Community Building Art Works

2024 Vision Boards - Wednesday, January 3rd at 7pm EST (Virtual)

Join Veteran and Artist, Valerie Acosta to create your personal Vision Board for 2024. This will be a good way to set some intentions for the year and to have a visual reminder along with some inspiration to accomplish our goals. It can be as detailed or as general as you'd like. Bring any materials you have available to you. Register HERE.

Military Spouses, Caregivers & Veterans Writing Workshop - 1st & 3rd Thursdays 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 at https://bsfcbaw_writing.eventbrite.com.

Poetry as Intimacy with the World with Brandon Wint -  January 18th at 7pm EST (Virtual)

In this workshop with Canadian poet and spoken word artist Brandon Wint, we will explore the varied ways that the acts of thinking, feeling and writing poetically create opportunities to experience the world more attentively and intimately. We will use the possibilities of language as a means of prompting new intimacies within the scope of our daily lives. Register HERE.

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.

CBAW Monthly Calendar of Events   Thursday Creative Writing Workshop

Visit www.cbaw.org to learn more about Community Building Art Works.


Pilot, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy

Shreve photo

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

PART III: Prisoner to Spy

In Manila, the Filipino commander of the MIS-X is GEN DeJesus. One of their main Filipino operatives is LT Generoso Masada. In the field, he gathers information from anywhere he can to help the Americans, including taking papers from dead Japanese.

Around this time, the MIS-X gets a letter into Cabanatuan through the Resistance to COL Carl Engelhart, the interpreter on American Command. They have contact! Arthur insists they use the channel for humanitarian purposes as well as exchanging critical information. Through the Underground, Arthur gets a message back to Howard County requesting (from Julia, or through his brother L.G./aka ‘Bill’ Shreve)  his Patapsco State Bank checkbook.

Arthur cashes checks in the Resistance (at a 50% commission) to buy black market food for his men. Meanwhile, an American internee named Fred Threatt has been chosen by the Japanese to drive the Supply Truck into Camp Cabanatuan, unaware he is a spy for the MIS-X. He and his carametta drivers in Manila begin to smuggle in Arthur’s (and others) extra food alongside the regular food delivery.

A slim 29-year-old West-pointer, LT COL Harold “Johnny” Johnson, oversees the commissary and stashes the extra food in plain sight and keeps records and receipts hidden. Arthur too, is keeping records in his journals on Japanese atrocities and Geneva Convention violations. He regularly protests their horrendous treatment at Japanese Command, walking a fine line between duty and offending the Japanese, at great personal risk. If he isn’t in enough hot water, Arthur hatches another plan. He instructs one of the American POWs in the Camp Powerhouse to ramp up the voltage late one night and blow out the Japanese radios knowing full well he’ll be the one the Japanese ask to fix it. 

He examines the Japanese radio and asks for two of every “broken” part…and after making repairs, pockets the rest to build a crystal radio receiver in the bottom of his canteen. The top half still holds water, so the Japanese are none the wiser.

At the same time, one summer night at Our Decision, little Doug asks his mother, “Ma―when's Pop coming home?” It must have been hard to get beyond the gut-wrenching uncertainty and find the right words. In the end, the result was to gather Mason jars so the boys could catch fireflies. Despite the official word that Arthur was M.I.A., the boys placed the jars on fence posts near the entrance…just in case their dad needed light to see by.

It isn’t till the end of ’42 that the War Department confirms Arthur is a POW of the Japanese. Somewhere in early ‘43, Bill requests a transfer to the South Pacific to be near Arthur, probably leveraging one of Arthur’s biggest fans, GEN William L. Ritchie, (Air Force) now liaison officer between George C. Marshall (Army Chief of Staff) and GEN MacArthur.

Bill follows AES Mosquito Radio Network from the Solomon Islands up to Guadalcanal as General Staff Officer on the combined Army-Navy staff of Admiral “Bull” Halsey, but I suspect that was a cover.

On May 3, 1944 the Resistance network is almost discovered. The Kempe Itai are tipped-off so they arrest Fred and his operatives, search the commissary and the restaurant he uses as cover. Luckily, the receipts they find are all in code so Fred is released and no one is beheaded.

After the battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese know the ‘jig is up’ and they rush to evacuate all POWs to Japan in October. Before Arthur is taken from Cabanatuan with last 1,600 POWs, he writes another check for the 500 they have to leave behind (the Army Rangers rescue in early ’45). Keyed in as a spy and go-between, he never stops writing checks…

Arthur and remaining POWs are taken to Bilibid Prison in Manila and placed on the first of three Japanese prison ships (known as the ‘Hellships’)—the Oryoku Maru. Arthur is forced aboard, crammed together with 500 men in each of the 3 baggage hold areas on the first ship. With no air, food, or water, 25 die overnight of suffocation alone. When they get underway and out at sea, the US Navy, unaware there are POWs on board, bomb the ship relentlessly leaving gaping holes in the deck. Japanese Zeros pelt the ship with machine gun fire. Arthur helps COL North, senior Medic/surgeon, to separate the living from the dead and takes a bullet down the back of his shirt collar which exits by the tail, leaving him unharmed.

That night, general madness is unleashed. Men go insane from thirst and try to bite their neighbors for blood. For the first time, Arthur starts to fade and North climbs over men to give Arthur one of his last morphine shots, attempting to save his life. The next day, Arthur awakes to find 100 more are dead and COL Beecher very sick.

With the ship on fire, the Japanese are yelling “Abandon ship!”. Arthur, now senior officer, takes command of the last 1,300 men…

To be Continued…

For more photos and information

Shreve letter

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