Our Veterans Are in Our Hearts

A Column by Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning)

When people express their feelings about Veterans Day, it’s not uncommon for them to end their messages with three words: no matter what. It’s a beautiful sentiment. No matter what our citizens are experiencing, no matter what adversity we’re facing, no matter what disaster is threatening us, Americans will always make time to thank the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms and our families.

This year, we get to prove we really mean it.

We are facing an unprecedented time in our nation’s history. We’re continuing to live with the consistent threat of COVID-19 and the economic devastation it’s wrought. As a nation, we’re weathering political upheaval and partisanship at every level of government. However, I continue to believe that two important things are true.
First, that, as a nation and as a people, we’re resilient in the face of adversity. There has never been a challenge we couldn’t meet. I know brighter days are ahead. And second, I know a brighter future will be built on the foundation laid by every veteran who’s ever served and every active duty servicemember who continues to fight for the country they love.  That’s why it’s so important we make time this Veterans Day to reflect on the courage, service, and achievements of the men and women who have served. It’s also important to take action and express our gratitude. We should also think about new ways we can continue to do so throughout the year.Obviously, ceremonies and gatherings this year will look quite a bit different. However, there’s so much we can do to express our appreciation that doesn’t require large crowds.

Teachers can encourage their students to write cards and assemble care packages to send to active-duty personnel during the holidays. You can mail cards to veterans living in nursing home facilities in your community. You can contact the Bath or Canandaigua VA and inquire about volunteer opportunities. You can do the same with the Red Cross. These organizations are almost certainly facing new challenges in adapting to social distancing and healthcare precautions and could benefit from the efforts of local volunteers.

It can be as simple as baking some cookies for a veteran who lives in your community who may be far away from family. It can even be as simple as seeing a veteran or active duty servicemember in your community, stopping and thanking them for their service. As they never have and never will hesitate to lay down their lives to protect us, our families and our freedoms.

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a very moving and special tribute to our veterans at the annual recognition event at Center St. Elementary in Horseheads. Students and teachers lined the hallways holding American flags, paying tribute to the veterans marching through the school. The students truly appreciated a chance to say thank you, and the veterans were able to receive a small fraction of the recognition, adulation and thanks they deserve. It was an incredible tribute, and it was a moment I’ve thought about many times over the past year. 

We’ll get back to events like that soon enough. There are so many ways we can thank our veterans tomorrow and each and every day. One of the simplest? Work as hard as you can to become the sort of charitable, compassionate and dedicated citizen a stranger would want to fight for. I’ll be praying for and thinking of all of our veterans and active duty servicemembers this week. I hope you’ll join me.