Over the many decades of my career, I’ve met a lot of remarkable leaders, both in the military and in medicine. I remember many of the officers and sergeants who helped me through my early years in uniform who squared me away in both word and deed. They didn’t just tell me what to do; they were what to do. The same was true for residents and attending physicians who trained me after I became a doctor. Everything they did had a purpose, and each action had a proper procedure. Over time, by modeling their behaviors, I learned how to safely care for my patients and protect myself and my employees.

Here at VA, we are one of the largest employers of former military personnel in the nation, and we are all the better for it.

Proper masking is just one way Veterans lead in their communities.

Veterans will always be seen as leaders because of their selfless service to the nation. As both a combat Veteran and a physician I am very proud, but not surprised, that Veterans are continuing to lead in their communities by modeling proper masking and hand hygiene behavior.

Masks are a part of our routines

We were taught on our first day in the military that being at the right place at the right time in the right uniform with the right equipment could be the difference between life and death. Our squad members counted on us to be ready for the mission, because having the right equipment with us could save their lives. Wearing a mask does the same thing. Just as we reached for our helmet and weapon every day on the way to our missions, we now reach for our masks as a part of our routines.

We wear masks to protect others

A common misconception is that we wear masks to protect ourselves. In fact, it is the opposite. We wear masks to protect others. Unlike a medical mask such as an N95 respirator, a homemade cloth face covering or dust mask from a hardware store likely won’t filter out the novel coronavirus. However, it will limit the virus from flying in the air to someone near you if you are infected. Yes, at times masks are hot and uncomfortable and fog up our glasses, but they are there to protect everyone around us from what we are breathing out. Simply put, by not wearing a mask, we put others in danger.

Man and woman wearing face masks

Make your mask a part of your everyday routine.

Masks are required for everyone entering our facilities, but I ask you to take a cue from the Veterans around you and make your mask a part of your everyday routine away from our facilities as well. This is not about being comfortable. It’s about saving lives. Current CDC guidance recommends everyone over the age of two wear a mask when in public settings and when around others who don’t live in their households, especially when other physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Use the #IWearAMaskFor hashtag on social media

To that end, we are looking to highlight Veterans who wear their masks by giving them a chance to tell the world who they are wearing them for. You can participate on social media by posting a photo of yourself in a mask and using the #IWearAMaskFor hashtag to identify the person or people you are keeping safe, like this: “#IWearAMaskFor my children/my grandfather/my fellow Veterans.”

We are all facing this public health crisis together. Wearing a face mask outside of our homes is one of the most simple but important things we can do to save lives. I hope the next time you see someone in a mask and a t-shirt or ball cap which indicates that they served this country in uniform, you will thank them not only for their service but for keeping you safe, both then and now.

Dr. Richard Stone (pictured above) is Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration. He is a retired Army major general and Veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He was born and raised in Michigan and is a proud alumnus of the Wayne State University School of Medicine.

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Published on Jul. 27, 2020

Estimated reading time is 3.6 min.

Views to date: 299


  1. Glenn Lego August 12, 2020 at 11:36 am

    I’m sorry, but I cannot participate in this Lucifarian ritual.

  2. Clifford E. Richardson July 31, 2020 at 7:01 am

    I’m a World War 2 and Korea War Vet. Been around long enough at 94 yrs. to tell the difference. The difference between maturity and immaturity . And God only knows that this country can stand a lot more maturity. People need to quit bellyaching and face the music with common sense. This country is going to hell in a hand basket. We need to
    re-institute the military draft and get these young people off the streets, into uniform and make men out of them instead of “spoiled brats”. And it wouldn’t hurt to teach their parents some lessons as well. As much as I hate to admit it, but when I think of the 20’s, 30’s and early 40’s, and compare those days with today, I’m disappointed. But our country
    is so much more educated and capable today….if we would only apply our gifts in the right direction. But all is not lost.
    Sooner or later the Good Lord will intervene and turn this country around and all will be well again. At least I hope so.

    May God Bless you:
    Clifford E. Richardson

  3. William C Johnson July 30, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    It is now confirmed that blogs.va.gov monitors are editing comments to fit their agenda. Yes, I now have court evidence that they are editing (censoring free speech under the 1st amendment of the constitution). I posted earlier today a free speech statement that as a Veteran that served in a war zone I was under the impression I was defending free speech, but a “monitor” no name coward hiding decides to “edit” my comment to meet his/her political agenda.

    You are now exposed and a criminal referral will be sent to the DOJ for investigation.

    End of story.

  4. Joseph Hossman July 30, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    Dr. Richard Stone,
    I suffer from shortness of breath just walking any distance, and I have some stores that refuse to let me go shopping or dine in without a mask, even if I tell them I have medical reasons they want a letter. We need to come up with a better plan.

    • Adam Stump July 31, 2020 at 7:50 am

      From https://vaww.blogstest.va.gov/VAntage/disclaimer/:

      “This is a moderated page, meaning that all comments will be reviewed for appropriate content. Please show respect to others. Comments that do not directly relate to the topics covered on this page, including commerce, external links, spam, abusive or vulgar language, hate speech, accusations against individuals, or personal attacks will be considered “off topic” and may not be posted. VA reserves the right to determine which comments are acceptable for this page. VA may remove comments that do not follow these terms, or comments that VA may reasonably believe could cause harm if they remain. VA may, at its sole discretion, terminate a user’s ability to post comments to this site for repeated or excessive violations of these standards.

      Users of this page are hereby notified that individuals may be held personally liable for commentary that is considered threatening, intimidating, harassing, retaliatory, obscene, defamatory, libelous, or proprietary. Further, by posting comments, the user agrees to indemnify VA against any damages, losses, liabilities, judgments, costs, or expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs) arising out of a claim relating to any material the user has posted.”

      • Glenn Lego August 12, 2020 at 11:33 am

        I also have shortness of breath issues that make wearing a mask difficult for me to breathe. If the VA is really concerned for my health they need to make exceptions for me and people like me.

  5. Logan Weiler III July 30, 2020 at 10:55 am

    Don’t live on your knees in fear. The emperor has no clothes.
    Stand up, Breath deep, Smile, Salute the star spangled banner; and thank God you live in the last free nation on earth. Unmask America!

    • Glenn Lego August 12, 2020 at 11:34 am

      Why does my comment need moderation? Do you not think i’m telling the truth? Am I fomenting rebellion? What’s up with this?

  6. William C Johnson July 30, 2020 at 10:52 am

    As a US Army War Veteran, I have the legal and moral right to refuse to wear a mask. What is happening is mind control of the masses. To condition people to do what they are told by the authorities without question.

    Wake up people. You sound like sheep fools when you mindlessly put these masks on and actually believe the lie that you are protecting yourself or others.

  7. Anson July 30, 2020 at 10:06 am

    Probably the dumbest article on masking so far. The VA needs to stop with the virtue signaling.

  8. Anson July 30, 2020 at 10:05 am

    Probably the dumbest article on masking so far. Dr. Stone is a dope. The VA needs to stop with the virtue signaling.

  9. George F. Sebastian July 29, 2020 at 9:51 am

    can i veteran request the masks and received them via mailing address? Please advise.

    George S.
    SSG(R), USArmy

  10. Mr. Froemke John Arthur Sr. July 28, 2020 at 9:53 pm

    Your life counts too. Do we feel so useless, unimportant and we have nobody that is dependent on us for physical, financial or spiritual contributions that we are looking forward to becoming ill or dying from this coronavirus? Yes, we are also important in doing our best to not personally spread the pandemic. We also have the responsibility to inform others of why we are wearing protective masks, gloves , face shields, washing our hands a lot and also not going out in groups or crowds. Setting an example and being willing to enter in a discussion or simply replying to people who question why we are wearing a mask .

  11. ANGELO VITALONE SR July 28, 2020 at 9:48 pm


  12. ANGELO VITALONE SR July 28, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    ask trump where he spent his time sure wasn’t at war war 1 war 2 Vietnam or so on.

  13. ANGELO VITALONE SR July 28, 2020 at 9:43 pm

    you can tell he’s worried more above the virus how about the combat vets that have been killed or are in the process where di you spend your time.Behind adesk/

  14. ANGELO VITALONE SR July 28, 2020 at 9:39 pm

    what i think Mr Stone is to worry about the vets who have problems that haven’t been addressed as to what the problem is first before the virus it’s going to be there for now at least until they find a cure for it tell trump to get his mask on and get his a** moving so more people may survive instead it’s politics as usual.tell him to put some of that wasted money he makes too good use help vets who are still searching.

    Signed Gysgt Angelo Vitalone Sr
    USMC retired Vietnam 65-66

  15. Not A Sheep July 28, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    We are NOT Sheep!  We are soldiers who learned how to determine what is right and what is wrong.  This sends the Wrong message.  You know exactly what the science says about masks and you still are preaching to wear them even though so many veterans have severe asthma and other lung problems.  Stop playing into the false narrative and pushing the wrong signal.

    I have lost ALL respect for this organization!

  16. Joe L Willis Jr July 28, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    How can a disabled vet facing radiation get help with
    masks. I have a return of lung cancer.

    • Maria R. Appleby July 29, 2020 at 7:47 am

      Hi Mr. Willis,

      This organization will send you a mask for free. You do have to submit your email and mailing address.


      I hope this helps.


  17. David Sevier July 28, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    Ditto that comment. We wear seat belts to keep us safer in cars, and helmets to keep us from killing ourselves on bikes, but masks are a much more proactive measure because they not only protect the wearer, but also those we are around. Be a man, wear a mask!

    • William H Stewart July 29, 2020 at 9:06 am

      I am so thankful that someone much smarter than me told me what it takes to be a man.

  18. Nate July 28, 2020 at 1:00 am

    Thank you Dr. Stone for helping to improve the culture of mask wearing to protect our community from COVID transmission

Comments are closed.

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