A Message from HMS President Leah Heimbach: “What Veterans Day Means to Me”

A Message from HMS President Leah Heimbach: “What Veterans Day Means to Me”

  • November 6, 2020

On this Veterans Day, I am so grateful to all who have served and currently serve in our Armed Forces. Your commitment impacted me and my work in healthcare and the legal profession in many ways. This culminated into now over 18 years of my own dedication and commitment to protecting vulnerable populations and veterans. It’s the reason I get up every day. I am honored and proud of the work that my team does to ensure the safety and quality of care of those who often don’t have a voice.

When our HMS teams go into facilities that care for aging veterans, they come face to face with America’s history. Every veteran is a treasure. Serving in the military is an honorable calling, and the sacrifices it requires are often not understood or truly appreciated by civilians. We’ve all seen movies that depict life in the military both stateside and abroad. They probably don’t capture what it’s really like.

Imagine that tomorrow, you leave the comforts of your own home to go to basic training. You can’t call anyone at home until and if you earn the privilege of doing so. Your schedule is not your own. You are told when to rise, what to do, and when to go to bed. You do your job, and your food options and choices of recreation are limited. You are required to wear the prescribed clothing. You follow orders all day, every day. You miss important life events such as the birth of a child, weddings, your children’s accomplishments, holidays, and so much more. As difficult as these things may seem, they are even worse for those service members who are deployed.

Unless you are a military spouse or child, you can’t really understand. I don’t fall into either of those categories, but I am related to and know many who have served. I’d like to say to my family members how humbled and grateful I am that you were willing to make the sacrifices you did to protect our freedoms. I don’t know what life was like for you during your service, but I know those at home missed you terribly and remain so proud of you. You may not have gotten the credit or maybe even the respect you deserved. Please know that you have mine. As men and women in the Armed Forces, you demonstrated your patriotism, love for your country, and a willingness to serve and sacrifice for others.

My deepest love and respect go to (see pictures in order below):

  • My father, John Heimbach, who served in the U.S. Army for 12 years, including the Korean War, who worked in communications.
  • My uncle, Jim Underwood, who served in the U.S. Army for 6 years, including the Vietnam War, and was a helicopter pilot.
  • My brother, Robert Heimbach, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 26 years, and worked in personnel, administration, and training.
  • My father-in-law, Harold Newman, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 30 years, retired as a Lt. Colonel, and ran hospital laboratories.
  • My mother-in-law, Judith Newman, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 2 years and worked at the base radio station.

I wasn’t born until after my father served, but I remember my mother describing the challenges of caring for my older siblings while he was gone and the loneliness she felt. 

I was also too young to remember what it was like when my uncle served, but I do recall my grandmother and mother describing the pride they felt with his service and how much they worried about him. With my mother’s passing 10 years ago, I remain very close to my Uncle Jim, who is my mother’s only sibling. 

With my brother, I remember how much my mother (and the rest of us) missed him while he was away. The family table had a notably empty chair during the holidays. I know the holidays were particularly difficult for him when he couldn’t be home.

As for my in-laws, my husband and his siblings were military children. They lived in Germany, Texas, and Maryland, while their parents served. My husband says that they traveled throughout Europe while his father served abroad in France and Spain. He went to a German kindergarten where he learned to speak the local language. They moved about every 4-5 years. He also said just as they made friends and were feeling comfortable, it was time to move. His parents presented it as an opportunity to meet new people and experience new places.

I am so grateful that my family members completed their service safely. Gold Star families (family members of a fallen service member who dies while serving in a time of conflict) were not so fortunate. I cannot fully imagine the loss they have experienced. I salute them and their loved ones that made the ultimate sacrifice. We owe them a debt that can never be repaid.

To every veteran in America: “Thank you!” Thank you for giving me and my colleagues opportunities to serve you in our work. Thank you for being exemplary role models. Thank you for your sacrifices. And most of all, thank you for preserving our freedom, which we never want to lose.

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