Photo by Noel St. John

Legion takes part in 'Welcome Home'

American Legion staffers from the organization's Washington, D.C., office participated in last Saturday's "Welcome Home American Hero" event at Prince George's Stadium in Bowie, Md.

The event honored both combat veterans and active-duty military personnel who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and was sponsored by the VA Medical Center. All branches of the U.S. Armed Forces were represented at the celebration, which featured a keynote address from VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.

The American Legion had a booth at the event and answered questions from veterans and their families about potential VA benefits and their eligibility. VA and Department of Defense teams also collaborated to provide health-care and benefits information, and education and employment resources. Veterans and their families were treated to food and entertainment, including a skydiving demonstration and performances by the West Point Alumni Glee Club and the 257th Army Band, "The Band of the Nation's Capitol."

Immediately following the skydiving demonstration, Executive Director Peter Gaytan of the Legion's D.C. office took part in the signing a Veteran and Military Community Covenant.

The Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center created the "Welcome Home" program four years ago. Similar events are now sponsored by VA facilities throughout the country, helping veterans transition to civilian life by offering easy access to health care and mental health services in a relaxed and casual environment that includes the family. The event was made possible by numerous veterans' service organizations, military service organizations and 248 medical center employees and volunteers.