My name is Dr. Meredith Goodwin. I have been a family physician for over 30 years. I am also a Colonel in the Air Force Reserves, whose 20-year career will soon be at an end. At that time, I will join many of my friends and change my status to Veteran. I will wear that status proudly — and quietly. There are many more of us in various social circles than most might think.  

I was deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. My time was short, but I will never forget it, because it changed my life. As a medic, my perspective was a bit different than others there, and I was privileged to witness some of the most inspiring people. One was a young Army woman of about 5 feet. Every day as I walked from the dining hall after breakfast, I would pass her walking in the other direction. She wore a pack that was nearly as tall (and likely nearly as heavy) as she was, and she always had the most determined look on her face. We passed almost every day. She has no idea how inspiring her grit and determination were for me. I wish I could find her and say “thank you.”

As we approach Veterans Day this year, let’s take a moment to think about the people who have served. In my experience, Veterans are typically not boastful. They are quiet, and it is often difficult to get them to share their experiences. One of the reasons is that the intense camaraderie among current and former military members can be difficult for someone outside of the military to understand. Another is that military life teaches us to be self-reliant. But we all need resources, including Veterans. 

Keeping our Veterans healthy is a shared responsibility for all of us. I am a primary care physician, and I also worked at the VA for a few months, which opened my eyes to the system from the Veteran point of view. The VA may assign your doctor, but you do have the right to change to a new one if your current one is not a good fit. How do you choose? And for those of us approaching or already over 65, how does Medicare fit in? These are essential questions as you work toward your health goals. 

One key to health is basic nutrition. You have probably heard that the rate of obesity is rising in this country, and the Veteran population is no exception. At Healthline, we have resources that discuss how to maintain a healthy weight and which foods may assist with handling stress. For those of us who are affected by the decreasing amount of daylight this time of year, there are foods that help with mood, as well.  

Sleep is also key to health. Veterans and non-Veterans both benefit from a good night’s sleep, but sleep disturbances are especially common for Veterans, due to complications with adjusting sleep schedules post-service or struggles with mental health. Veterans may ask themselves, how much sleep do we really need? Is there a way to make our sleep better? Should we have a snack right before bed, or not? What about using devices and exposing our eyes to blue light right before bed? Healthline is a resource with answers to these questions. 

And finally, whole-health would not be complete without including fitness and exercise. The military taught us the importance of keeping our bodies strong; the fitness test we all took at least yearly was intended to measure our overall fitness going forward, to measure how we would do as Veterans. Now that the fitness test requirement is gone, how are you exercising? Are you exercising for weight loss, or just for overall health? We have researched some of these topics and invite you to read them. 

Veterans are a unique group of people. If you served, you are a Veteran; it doesn’t matter if you served for 6 months or 20 years. I salute you and your service and hope these resources are helpful to you and those you love.  

Very respectfully,

Meredith A. Goodwin, MD | Col, USAFR