Bel Air resident represents Maryland veterans

Carolynn Baker, a Vietnam-era veteran, chats with Charlie Mason, a Vietnam veteran, at the American Legion Harford Post #39 in Bel Air. Baker was recently appointed by Govenor Larry Hogan to serve on the Maryland Veterans Commission. | U.S. Army photo by Rachel Ponder, APG News

BEL AIR, Md. – A Vietnam era-veteran and retired nurse from Bel Air is ready and willing to help fellow veterans who need assistance.

Carolynn Baker, 69, is committed to connecting veterans with resources they need. She has volunteered more than 25 years in various veterans committees and leadership positions. Last month, she was appointed by Governor Larry Hogan to serve on the Maryland Veterans Commission. In this role, she represents female veterans in Maryland.

“It’s kind of cool,” Baker said of her newest endeavor.

She said that as commissioner, she hopes to get more visibility for female veterans.

“My goal is to get more recognition of female veterans,” she said. “Get more female veterans involved in Veteran Service Organizations, or VSOs, and get more female veterans to realize that they are equal to male veterans.”

According to Baker, many resources are available to veterans, but too many don’t know how to access them.

“I think veterans are extremely important. My dad [a U.S. Air Force retiree] was the greatest guy ever,” she said. “There are a lot of things [benefits] that are there for them, but they don’t know how to get them.”

A history of leadership

On July 18, 2014, Baker became the first female elected as the commander of the American Legion Department of Maryland. Her responsibilities included representing about 63,000 legionnaires at official ceremonies. She called this position “a phenomenal honor.”

“It [the position] is about visiting the legions throughout the state,” she said. “It is about finding out what the concerns of the veterans are, how we can make things better for them and their families.”

She was also the first female veteran to serve as the commander of American Legion Harford Post #39.

According to Baker, these roles gave her the opportunity to help an “awful lot of people.”

“I think that is fabulous,” she said.

Baker is also an Honorary Life Member of American Legion Harford Post #39; Life Member of Disabled American Veterans Chapter #30; and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #588.

Proud to serve

Baker said she learned about military service at an early age. Her father served in World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. As a child, she lived on U.S. Air Force bases in Alaska, Germany and Panama.

“Most of my family members served in the military, she said.

Immediately after Baker graduated high school she joined the Women’s Army Corps, or WAC, and specialized in finance and accounting. What she enjoyed most about her experience in the Army was the camaraderie, she said.

“Military [life] is the only life I ever really knew,” she saidof her decision to join the Army. “And you didn’t have to worry about how much money you made, because they will give you a place to live, food and clothes.”

After serving in the Army for 18 months, Baker used the GI Bill for her college education and earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Maryland. During her career, she served as a critical care nurse and a hospital supervisor with MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center and as a public health nurse with the Harford County Health Department.

Now that she is retired, she spends most of her time helping active-duty military, veterans and their families.

“The definition of a veteran means many things to different people,” Baker said “They all served their country, and they all came out with a greater appreciation for what a veteran really is, whether they were in a short time or long time.”

Veterans who need assistance filing for VA benefits can email bakercarol@aol.com, or call 410-459-8870.

Story by Rachel Ponder, APG News