Military veterans from across the state—including Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown—were in Crofton Saturday night to honor the state’s veteran of the year, Fred L. Shinbur.
Described by emcee and fellow veteran Judge Gerard F. Devlin as “one of us,” Brown, in his second term as lieutenant governor, is currently the highest ranking elected official in the U.S. to have served a tour of duty in Iraq.
A former state delegate from Mitchellville, Brown has taken a leading role within Gov. Martin O’Malley's administration on veterans’ issues.
Brown told the audience of mostly veterans he appreciated the hero's welcome that many veterans receive—in the form of spontaneous applause when they return home to Baltimore-Washington International airport.
"I experienced it when I returned from Iraq. The entire airport sort of stops. It's not just on American Express commercials. It happens," Brown said.
But Brown said he was “disturbed” by the struggles many veterans face: the high unemployment rate among young veterans and the disproportionate number of homeless veterans. He also stressed the need to provide all veterans with quality health care.
"The most sacred obligation we have is to support those who have given so much to our country," Brown said.
Brown praised Shinbur's advocacy on behalf of veterans.
Shinbur, of Hagerstown, served more than three decades in the U.S. Army before retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer Five in 2003.
Since then, Shinbur has become a member, he said, of every veteran’s organization he is eligible to join. Appointed by Gov. Robert Ehrlich to the Maryland Veterans Commission in 2006, Shinbur was tapped by O’Malley to chair the commission nearly two years later.
Before a crowd of 175 people at the Bowie Elks Lodge, Shinbur asked for a moment of silence to honor Cpl. Frank Buckles, the last known surviving World War I veteran. Buckles, of West Virginia, died last month at the age of 110, outliving nearly 5 million other American World War I veterans.
An active member of AMVETS Post 10 in Hagerstown—where Buckles was also a life member—Shinbur has served in many capacities within the organization including post and state commander.
Shinbur encouraged fellow vets to support a congressional resolution designating March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” to honor the veterans who returned home to a country bitterly divided. A Vietnam veteran himself, Shinbur was an infantryman during the war.
"We didn’t get a welcome home, the Vietnam veterans,” said Shinbur.
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