The Importance of Honoring Our Veterans

A Legislative Column From Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C,I,Ref-Ballston)
November 9, 2017

This weekend, as we gather with family and friends to pay tribute to the brave men and women who have served our country in the military, it is extremely important that we also ask ourselves what we can do to be there for these selfless individuals after they come home. The liberties we enjoy here in the U.S. are in a large part thanks to the sacrifice of those who have defended our freedom abroad, and we as a society owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

This fall I had the opportunity to visit Oahu, Hawaii for a meaningful trip that took on added significance given the time of year. While there, my husband and I took a profoundly moving tour of Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin submarine and the USS Missouri. We also had the chance to visit the National Memorial of the Pacific, a beautiful final resting place for veterans of WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War as well as meet with current Navy SEALs and a survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack.

As the daughter of a World War II Navy veteran, and as the wife of a retired Navy Commander, Veterans Day has always been a significant day for me. Having the opportunity to stand in these beautiful and historic places, where so many Americans made the ultimate sacrifice, is an experience I won’t soon forget.

However, having a meaningful observance of Veterans Day this year is just as easy to do right here at home. There are approximately 17,000 former service members living in Saratoga County, and several organizations committed to ensuring they are supported throughout their transition back to life at home and beyond. One such organization, the Saratoga County Veterans Service Agency, maintains a staff of accredited service officers to assist veterans filing claims for several federal benefits including disability compensation, pension, healthcare, and home loan. This year I have attended several of the Agency’s extremely moving monthly Honor Deceased Veterans Ceremonies, which to date have memorialized over 300 Saratoga County veterans.

Another local organization, The Guardian House, is one of only two supportive housing programs for homeless female veterans in New York State, and eight in the entire country. Open since 2012, Guardian House can house up to nine female veterans for up to two years. The organization offers valuable support services, helps in family reunification efforts and connects female veterans to health services offered through the VA. While on my tour it came as a surprise to me that there are not more of these facilities for women across our country, I am so proud to have Guardian House here in Ballston Spa to support our local female veterans.

In addition to the several great veteran programs offered in Saratoga County, it is also important to note the large active military presence right here in the Capital District. For example, through the Unified Military Affairs Council (UMAC), I have learned about substantial local military installations, such as the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, Nuclear Power Training Unit Ballston Spa, Naval Support Activity Saratoga Springs and the Watervliet Arsenal, and their significance to the overall well-being of the Capital Region.

I’ve highlighted just a few of the many great organizations helping veterans here in the 112th Assembly District. As we approach the holiday season, I ask that you take a moment to think about what you can do to help these organizations support and protect these men and women who sacrificed so much for us. We owe it to the veterans who have fought for our freedom to do everything we can to ensure they have the resources they need to thrive upon their return.

Are you a Veteran or concerned about a loved one who is? Connect with qualified, caring responders by calling the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1. This hotline allows individuals to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.