Dundalk VA service center celebrates opening
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 13:25

New facility offers services to vets, families

by Nicole Rodman

    On Monday, May 13, the  Baltimore County-Dundalk Vet Center celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
    Located at 1553 Merritt Boulevard, the Dundalk Vet Center provides a variety of counseling, education and benefits services to U.S. military veterans.
    The first Vet Centers were established in 1979 in the wake of the Vietnam War.
    Noticing that many Vietnam veterans were having difficulty re-adjusting to civilian life, the federal Veterans Administration (now the Cabinet-level U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but still known as the VA) created the first Vet Centers to offer services to veterans in their communities.
    Today there are 300 Vet Centers and 100 Mobile Vet Centers in communities across the nation.
    The Dundalk Vet Center opened at 1527 Merritt Blvd. on Jan. 3, 2011, before moving to its current location on July 16, 2012.
    Since its opening in 2011, the center has provided services for 237 veterans in the Dundalk community.
    According to Dundalk Vet Center Team Leader Paula Wolff, Dundalk was chosen as a Vet Center location because of the high number of veterans living in the area.
    Additionally, with easy access to the Key Bridge, I-95 and I-695, Dundalk is easily accessible to veterans in surrounding counties.
    At the Dundalk Vet Center, all services are provided at no cost for veterans and their families.
    Services include individual, group, marital and family counseling, as well as bereavement counseling.
    The center also provides assistance in applying for VA benefits and referrals for medical services.
    For many veterans, getting a job after their time  in the military can be a daunting challenge.
    At the Dundalk Vet Center, staff provide employment counseling and assistance, as well as education services to aid veterans in obtaining the skills they need to find a job.
    The center also provides sexual trauma counseling, drug and alcohol counseling and information on a variety of other community resources.
    The Dundalk Vet Center also includes a 38-foot-long Mobile Vet Center, a vehicle which is able to travel to different parts of the community offering counseling and other services.
    On hand to celebrate the grand opening of the Dundalk Vet Center on Monday were local and national politicians, including Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski Sr., state Del. John Olszewski Jr., U.S. Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and U.S. Senator Ben Cardin.
    The ribbon-cutting ceremony began with a special motorcycle entrance by members of the Warrior Motorcycle Club and the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.
    Following this, the flag was presented by the Vietnam Veterans of America Post 451 honor guard.
    In brief remarks, Cardin began by noting, “It’s a great day to be in Dundalk. There is no more patriotic community in the nation than Dundalk.”
    He added, “This is a community that understands how to show their appreciation for our men and women in uniform.”
    Praising the work already being done at the Dundalk Vet Center, Cardin commented that “our congressional delegation couldn’t be prouder of the great work being done here in Dundalk.”
    In remarks made to The Eagle after the ceremony, Cardin noted of the center, “Veterans are really welcomed here. They can come right to this center and know their needs will be met.”
    In his brief comments, Ruppersberger echoed Cardin’s praise of Dundalk’s patriotism, noting, as he often does, that “[Dundalkians] even celebrate the Fourth of July four days in a row.”
    Of the center’s services, he said, “It’s not only our duty but our obligation to take care of our veterans.
    He continued, “When they come back, it is important that we take care of them.”
    Also speaking was Richard Lane, Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs.
    In his remarks, he pledged “to do whatever we can to assist, to be partners with you at this center and any center in the state of Maryland.”
    Representing Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamanetz, Councilman Olszewski offered comments as well.
    “It’s an honor and privledge that you have located in Dundalk,” he noted.
    As the ceremony came to a close, Cardin, Ruppersberger, Olszewski and others came together to cut the ribbon on the state’s latest Vet Center.
    The Baltimore County-Dundalk Vet Center, at 1553 Merritt Blvd. (next to PetSmart) is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with after-hours appointments available Monday through Thursday from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
    Evening counseling groups are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
    These group sessions include Korean War and Vietnam War PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) groups, as well as a women’s veterans group and a support group for significant others of veterans.
    For more information, visit the center or call 410-282-6144.