Before the 2001 terrorist attacks Americans rarely saw Old Glory flying outside homes and apartments and in the windows of local businesses. Americans felt untouchable and assumed we would always be safe on our shores.

The Sept. 11 attacks produced an entire mental and cultural transformation. They robbed us of our sense of security and our innocence.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the VA Maryland Health Care System has changed to meet the needs of our nation's newest returning veterans. We have increased our services for women veterans, the fastest-growing segment of the veteran population, and we have implemented innovative treatments for veterans withpost-traumatic stress disorder.

We've also increased the number of mental health professionals available to address the many readjustment issues returning veterans face in civilian life, even as we remain committed to serving the health-care needs of veterans from previous wars.

On this 10th anniversary of the terror attacks, I urge all citizens to take a proactive role in welcoming back our newest veterans. If you know a veteran, urge him or her to enroll in VA health care so they can take advantage of the benefits and services they are entitled to.

Let them know that help is just a phone call away: by calling 800-463-6295, ext. 7324 or by visiting http://www.maryland.va.gov.   

Dennis H. Smith, Baltimore

The writer is director of VA Maryland Health Care System.