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 sacrifices. 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. One measure, already signed into law, will help ensure that veterans of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq get the tax benefits they deserve. Senate bill 4730 requires the Division of Veterans’ Affairs to annually remind assessors to include Persian Gulf veterans under eligibility for certain veterans’ tax exemptions. This measure would help address several cases statewide where assessors have rejected applications from these veterans because they did not realize they are covered under the alternative veterans’ real property tax law.
Another measure, which has passed both the senate and assembly and awaits the governor’s final approval, would help veterans secure employment. Senate bill 946 will waive the application fee for civil service exams taken by honorably discharged veterans. Waiving the state application fee for taking civil service exams is one way that we can show are gratitude for their service and sacrifice, and encourage these hardworking men and women to enter state government.
Additionally, several bills passed both houses that will lead to improved recognition and gratitude for all our veterans have done. Among the measures, senate bill 5540,which directs the Commissioner of General Services to place a POW/MIA chair and plaque in the State Capitol to honor United States prisoners of war and those still missing in action. The POW/MIA Chair of Honor would be a simple yet powerful symbol to honor the 91,000 who remain unaccounted for, and remain forever empty as a reminder to all.
My senate colleagues and I also worked to ensure funding for a number of important initiatives was part of the 2017-18 state budget, including: $3.1 million for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer-to-Peer Program; $500,000 for the NYS Defenders Association Veterans Defense Program; $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.
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.