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Veterans helping Veterans: an inside look at the Harford County Veterans Commission

July 4 parade HCCOVA.JPG
Posted at 7:29 AM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 13:11:20-04

HARFORD COUNTY, Md. — When you look up the word veteran in the dictionary, it says 'an old solider of long experience' and 'a former member of the armed forces' but a veteran is so much more than that.

"The definition of a veteran is someone who at some time in their life raised their hand, at the same time writing a blank check payable to the USA up to and including their life. That’s a veterans," said Capt'n Jim McMahan as he proudly raised his right hand. He's a veteran himself, 31 years in the army.

"On June 6, 1960. I took my oath of office and I became a second lieutenant and it was one of the best days of my life. I think I was born to be a soldier."

Capt'n Jim worked up to be a colonel but captain just stuck. After his service, he found another way to serve by working on the Harford County Council and with the veterans commission. He said, "this was a solution where I could keep on giving and I was still with soldiers."

In 2015, he went to Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and asked to reorganize the veterans commission, Glassman agreed without hesitation. Capt'n Jim said everyone on the commission at the time did a fine job but they were all assigned their role so they lacked drive. Now, the commission is made up of volunteers who are passionate about helping veterans.

Bob Brown is the Chairperson for the Harford County Commission of Veterans Affairs, working with about a dozen other people.

"It’s those 13 people who are out there working every single day in that commission and working with all these organizations to come together as a group and as a family to take of that veteran. And that’s what it takes, that's what it takes, everybody coming together as a community, withing Harford County, for those veterans."

Brown described the commission as a search engine, to ease the frustrations for someone who just moved to the area or is transition from military to civilian life. Some need help with finances, housing or just need advice.

"They come to us and then we help them find the resources that they need and that’s our mission. Our mission is to help veterans and their families through advocacy by connecting them with different resources, education and outreach," said Brown. He added, "there are so many resources out there, they change constantly and we’re lucky that we have connections throughout Maryland."

Brown is a veteran too. He spent 23 years in the army. For him, this position was a calling.

"I see veterans all the time and you the read stories about the veterans and PTSD issues and homeless issues and all of that and you can't stand by."

He went onto quote Ronald Reagan who said, 'we can't help everybody but everybody can help someone.' And that’s what they're looking to do. They help as many veteran as they can, a couple hundred a year. They're soldiers dedicated to helping fellow soldiers.

"They need help, many times it's just somebody that will listen and say been there, done that. I understand your pain," said Capt'n Jim.

If you don't live in Harford County but still need help, they can point you in the right direction. Click here for more information.