In American military health care, the role of the pharmacist was solidified through General George Washington’s appointment of Andrew Craigie as Apothecary General in 1777, MG (Ret) James M. Collins, U.S. Army, said in his keynote for a Veterans Day tribute at APhA headquarters on November 12.
Craigie has his supporters and detractors, noted Collins—Principal with Jimmy Collins & Associates, Board Chair for the nonprofit Hire America’s Heroes, and Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Washington State. “As for me, I know that people who get things done often have mixed reputations. My wife has a favorite saying that ‘well behaved women rarely make history,’” he continued. “So proactive advocacy using your unique style is important for each of you in the pharmacy profession.”
As America’s armed forces have evolved, the delivery of pharmacy support has evolved as well, Collins explained. The Army’s Pharmacy Corps became the basis of the Medical Service Corps. In the U.S. Air Force, pharmacists serve in the Biomedical Services Corps. For the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, pharmacists are in the Navy’s Medical Service Corps.
Pharmacy technicians and their supervisors are “front-line professionals that our military beneficiaries often see even before they see a specialist,” Collins added. “A good way for you to think of our typical warrior in your armed forces today is ‘world-class athlete’ … and the pharmacy tech, just like the physical therapist, is a key advisor on their team.”
It was a sunny, unseasonably warm Veterans Day as Collins spoke on the blindingly white front steps of Association headquarters on the National Mall to dozens of APhA staff. He asked the several veterans—both APhA staff and U.S. Department of Defense pharmacists—in attendance to raise their hands. He reminded his audience to show gratitude to veterans by being good citizens, to not take freedoms for granted, and to be proud of our country and our citizenship.
Front and center on stage during the annual ceremony was a wreath on a stand. At the end of the ceremony, the wreath was placed at the base of the Memorial Flagpole, as “Taps” was played.
A four-member color guard from the local Forestville Military Academy presented the colors at the beginning of the ceremony, as the National Anthem was played. The crisply disciplined color guard presented arms as the wreath was laid.
To the left of the stage was a giant screen showing photos of service members who sacrificed their lives to protect America’s freedoms. The display was part of a joint effort, Operation Visibility, between ScreenSource-USA and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
In her opening remarks, Elizabeth K. Keyes, BSPharm, APhA Chief Operating Officer, read a poem, “The Things That Make A Soldier Great,” by Edgar Guest: “’Tis not the pomp and pride of kings that make a soldier brave;/’Tis not allegiance to the flag that over him may wave;/For soldiers never fight so well on land or on the foam/As when behind the cause they see the little place called home.”
Col. (Ret) Everett McAllister, BSPharm, USAF, Executive Director and CEO, Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, delivered an invocation. APhA President Jenelle L. Sobotka, PharmD, FAPhA, introduced Collins. Sobotka shared that her first pharmacist position out of pharmacy school was as a clinical specialist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City and that her father-in-law served in World War II.
Naming monuments in Washington, DC, that highlight American’s veterans and health care providers, Sobotka said, “I cherish these special places that honor those who have and are still serving our country.” At APhA headquarters, she added, visible to all outside is the Memorial Flagpole with its four scenes depicting medicines used in times of war, and inside is the Federal Pharmacy Conference Room that was dedicated by pharmacists in the service.