The members of New York’s Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing exemplify why we celebrate Veterans Day. These men and women are right now risking their lives to serve their country in the Middle East. As a former member of the Army Reserves, these brave individuals have my respect and gratitude. As a member of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, I consider it my duty to work on legislation to reward veterans for the courage they’ve shown.
On behalf of local veterans, I secured $10,000 for the veterans’ memorial at the Syracuse Fairgrounds, and sponsored a law requiring the state Department of Health to assess the need for a veterans’ nursing home in Onondaga County (Ch. 550 of 2002). Central New York veterans and their families have long waited for this kind of assistance, and I am pushing for the governor and the Department of Health to follow through with their commitment and complete the study in a timely fashion.
Recently, I helped pass the Military Enhanced Recognition, Incentive, and Tribute (MERIT) plan (Ch. 106 of 2003). This plan goes the extra mile to help the families of the 1.3 million New York state residents who have served in the military by providing them with means to contact family members who are currently serving, free undergraduate tuition to the families of those killed or disabled in the line of duty, and up to $6,000 in funeral expenses for those killed in combat.
Additional help is offered directly to veterans through Operation Recognition, which grants high school diplomas to veterans who left school before graduation to serve during World War II and the Korean War. I support Operation Recognition because I believe that the experiences and skills attained during combat are unparalleled and should be formally recognized.
I have also supported numerous other laws to assist our veterans, including:
- a full tax exemption for seriously disabled vets (Ch. 179 of 2002);
- extending the eligibility for admission to New York State Veterans’ Nursing Homes to include military personnel who served between times of war (Ch. 455 of 2002); and,
- extending a law allowing recovery damages for injuries caused by Agent Orange to 131,000 Vietnam veterans (Ch. 88 of 2002).
This Veterans Day, we have a special opportunity to pay tribute to National Guard and Reserve units that were activated to serve in the ongoing war on terrorism with a ceremony from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Oncenter Complex in Syracuse. The ceremony, "How to Serve Our Country," will recognize those units with "Distinguished Veteran Awards." I invite all Central New York residents to attend the ceremony and pay tribute to our veterans.
For more information on the November 11 ceremony, please call (315) 435-2121. For information on veterans benefits, contact the United States Veterans Regional Office at (800) 827-1000, or my district office at (315) 428-9651.
For more than 200 years, citizens of this country have answered her needs. I invite everyone to take the time to thank them for their service and sacrifice on Veterans Day.