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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Our obligation and our opportunity"
ALBANY, Nov. 11 -- Fifty years ago, on November 11, 1963, then-President John F. Kennedy led the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery overlooking Washington D.C. He laid a wreath at The Tomb of the Unknowns. It would be one of President Kennedy’s last official acts, just eleven days before his tragic assassination.
years earlier, on November 11, 1961, at President Kennedy’s first
Veterans Day observance as the leader of the United States of America,
he gave us the following words in his remarks at Arlington: “We
celebrate this Veterans Day for a very few minutes, a few seconds of silence
and then this country's life goes on. But I think it most appropriate
that we recall on this occasion, and on every other moment when we are
faced with great responsibilities, the contribution and the sacrifice
which so many men and their families have made in order to permit this
country to now occupy its
This echo of former President Kennedy remains so very fitting – and poignant – to hear again on this Veterans Day, when we indeed live in a time of great responsibilities and as we continue to gather to salute the contribution and the sacrifice of our military men and women, living and deceased, past and present.
On November 11, 2013, at ceremonies today (and throughout the past weekend) at local cemeteries, and at the monuments and memorials which so many area communities have seen fit to build to honor our veterans, we carry on this essential observance of Veterans Day.
Travel throughout this region’s communities and it’s striking to reflect on the common landmarks that stand as everyday reminders of the guiding principles and underlying strengths of our nation: city, town and village halls, county courthouses, churches, elementary schools, local public libraries. These fundamental American places still speak to the very reasons for our nation’s founding and her endurance as the world’s great democracy.
But perhaps most powerfully of all, on this day every year we are drawn to the cemeteries, monuments and memorials in our midst that still, and hopefully always will, rise up to honor those who have served and sacrificed, and still do. We gather together throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions to honor the sacrifices and the victories of our soldiers – past, present, and future. By doing so, we reaffirm our pride in this nation’s servicemen and women and, of course, we turn our thoughts and prayers to all of the young soldiers whom we’ve lost from here at home.
Since the tragic unfolding of September 11, 2001 this generation has realized, all too painfully, that our freedom here at home can be threatened at any moment. We realize, as well, that our troops always stand ready to protect freedom again and again. The freedoms we cherish have been hard-won by the soldiers of previous generations and by those of this generation who have continued to serve. They are true American heroes, and we are grateful to each and every one of them. Sacrifice is the fundamental truth that’s recalled on Veterans Day, especially today when sacrifice can too often seem an on-the-decline virtue in American life.
One way that New York government seeks to constantly honor the service of veterans has been through the creation of state agencies and legislative committees devoted to the development and administration of programs and services that seek to address the many challenges facing today’s veterans in areas such as health care, employment and education. The state Division of Veterans Affairs was established in 1945 to assist veterans, members of the armed forces, their families and their dependents. Since then, the Division -- in concert with its offices in counties locally and across New York -- has strongly advocated for veterans' issues at the local, state and national levels. It’s a proud history of service.
In addition to the Division, each house of the state Legislature has established a veterans committee dedicated to these affairs. In the Senate, the Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee concentrates each and every legislative session to identify and formulate legislative responses to the many issues confronting our veterans.
On November 11, 1961, as he stood so tall, so proud and so hopeful on that long-ago day and recalled for all Americans and the world how Arlington National Cemetery was created 97 years earlier to bury the soldiers of the Civil War, President Kennedy said, “It was a crucial moment in our Nation's history, but these memories, sad and proud, these quiet grounds, this Cemetery and others like it all around the world, remind us with pride of our obligation and our opportunity.”
“Our obligation and our opportunity.” These words deserve to remain with us on this Veterans Day, to guide us, now and forever, as a solemn reminder of the clearest duty of a proud nation and all of her citizens.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869