Lindsay Freeland of La Grande, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is set to become a mom in 4-1/2 months.

Freeland, a former sergeant, does not know if she will be giving birth to a boy or a girl.

“I asked (the doctors) not to tell me,” Freeland said.

What she does know is what many expecting moms who are veterans appear to be unaware of: the Department of Veterans Affairs offers extensive maternity health care benefits. This point was reinforced Monday during a first-of-its-kind event at the Community Based VA Outpatient Clinic in La Grande — a baby shower for veterans who are expecting.

The baby shower was one of about 60 being conducted this month at veterans clinics across the United States as part of the VA’s nationwide Baby Shower Initiative, according to The purpose of the baby showers is to make expecting women veterans aware of the VA maternity benefits available to them.

Although the VA has offered maternity benefits for more than 20 years, many women are not aware of it, said Jeanne Cone, the women veterans program manager for the Walla Walla VA.

“It is important that we get the word out because the number of women veterans is growing,” Cone said.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer