On Veterans Day, Americans should pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by our veterans. Whether combat veterans or Cold War veterans, all who served need to be given proper praise for a job well done. Our veterans have faced hardships that a non-veteran could never fully understand. Some have faced death in defending our nation’s freedom. Veterans possess the core American values of loyalty, duty, respect, honor, selfless service, personal courage and integrity.
We need to teach our children the true meaning of Veterans Day and the best way to do so is for adults to set a good example. We must keep the torch of memory alive and never forget the sacrifices of our veterans. We must get American military history back into the classroom and the home. The youth of today have to learn about the heroes of yesterday.
Veterans deserve to know that we appreciate their service. We must let our veterans know that we truly believe America is better because of their service and sacrifice. Take the time to thank a veteran, not just on Veterans Day, but any day that you get the chance to meet a veteran.
Veterans’ issues were front and center during this year’s state legislative session. Perhaps the most significant action was enactment of legislation, known as the Veterans Buyback Bill. The measure, which I co-sponsored, has been a long time in coming and I am extremely pleased that this small thank you is now available to our veterans.
The new law allows all honorably discharged service members with five years of existing public pension credit to purchase three years of credit for their military service. Previously, state law only allowed World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War vets to purchase pension credits.
The goal of this law is simple – to honor those who have bravely served our country and to encourage them to return to New York and continue their public service as teachers, firefighters, police officers, and municipal and state employees. The credit is a small price to pay to recognize the training and leadership skills that our veterans received during their honorable military service.
This credit shouldn’t be based on when a veteran wore the uniform, but that he or she was willing to defend our nation, our freedoms, and our way of life. All veterans deserve this sign of respect – each and every one has earned it. If you are a veteran who works for state or local government, or know someone who is, take a moment and check on this new credit.
My senate colleagues and I also worked to ensure funding for a number of important initiatives was part of the 2016-17 state budget, including: $2.8 million for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer-to-Peer Program; $500,000 for the NYS Defenders Association Veterans Defense Program; $450,000 for the Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative; $200,000 for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Veterans and Military Advocacy Project; $200,000 for Helmets to Hardhats; and $200,000 for Warrior Salute, among other initiatives.
These programs provide valuable services to veterans from mental health counseling to job training and many other helpful topics. Often, veterans need specialized assistance and these initiatives are proven winners when it comes to aiding our service men and women.
Veterans Day is the time we recall the courageous legacy of soldiers who fought in our nation’s wars, from the War of Independence to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today our soldiers, men and women, are carrying on a legacy of valor and service that soldiers before them established throughout our nation’s history. Our country was made safe by their sacrifices.
As state senator, I am often asked to speak at events honoring our veterans. I have several ceremonies on my schedule this week and, as always, I look forward to the privilege of paying my respects to the men and women who have served out nation and thanking each and every one.