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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"In memory of our veterans"
ALBANY, May 25 -- Many of us across the region will gather together this Memorial Day at cemeteries, parades and other ceremonies, large and small, in Bath, Corning, Elmira, Hammondsport, Horseheads, Southport, Odessa, Montour Falls and Watkins Glen, to name just a few. There’ll be a service at the Bath National Cemetery, a salute to veterans at Denison Park in Corning, a ceremony at Woodlawn National Cemetery in Elmira and an observance at the Schuyler County Courthouse in Watkins Glen – together with so many other ceremonies at so many of the monuments, memorials and organizations dedicated to veterans throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.
That’s as it should be. On Memorial Day – one of the most meaningful of all American celebrations – citizens join to remember our veterans, past and present. It’s a time to pay tribute to our nation’s past, to honor her present, and to look forward to her future.
Let’s hope it will always be so.
We can be proud that New York State is recognized as the “Birthplace of Memorial Day,” which our nation has now observed for over a century, since the time of the Civil War. It’s a time to reflect on the greatness of a nation built on the sacrifices of her soldiers, soldiers who still today serve the underlying dreams of our homeland: freedom and peace, compassion and decency, and democracy.
It is always a great privilege to help carry on this observance. It’s essential to pay tribute to those left behind in Germany and on the beaches of Normandy, Iwo Jima, the hills of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, the sands of the Middle East, and the mountains of Afghanistan. We must especially remember and salute the men and women who serve in harm’s way this very moment to keep America strong and the world safer in the war against terrorism. They remain shining examples of the bravery, courage and honor on which the American way of life has been built, and persevered.
In remembering, we reaffirm our pride in this nation's servicemen and servicewomen and, of course, we turn our thoughts and prayers to those young soldiers whom we've lost from here at home.
On June 6, 1984, in remarks commemorating the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, President Ronald Reagan said, “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”
So we remember our soldiers on Memorial Day. As well, we must remember
and salute the nearly 900,000 veterans living in New York State, together
with the millions across our nation. They have earned our gratitude. Last
week in Albany, I was proud to honor one of these outstanding local veterans,
Anthony J. “Tony” Specchio of Watkins Glen, a Korean War veteran,
with an enduring tribute by inducting him into the New York State Senate
Veterans’ Hall of Fame. Tony joins nearly 300 state veterans who’ve
joined the Hall since 2005, including the following area veterans that
I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to induct since 2011: Philip
J. Smith of Schuyler County, J. Arthur “Archie” Kieffer of
Chemung County, and Painted Post Mayor Roswell L. “Roz” Crozier
[view the Veterans’ Hall of Fame and read the inspiring stories
of these and so many other New York State
Because of these veterans, we can look into the eyes of our young people this Memorial Day, the faces of the future, and have faith that they, too, will be instilled with the spirit to keep America strong and to keep believing that the American way is a good, decent, worthwhile way.
In the end, perhaps this will always be the greatest justice for all of the missions flown, for all of the foxholes dug, for the hills taken and the battles fought. Our soldiers -- American soldiers -- have made and continue to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep America free, so that we can lead the way to a more free world. Our soldiers sacrifice to keep alive America’s promise, so that people throughout the world can look to us for inspiration. Our soldiers sacrifice to keep America strong, so that other nations can draw courage from our strength.
For as long as we remember and keep our soldiers alive in our hearts, we will stand as we do -- free in a land of opportunity and promise.
[To read more on the history of New York as the “Birthplace of Memorial Day, visit New York’s Hall of Governor’s website at http://www.hallofgovernors.ny.gov/generic/memorialdayexhibit]
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp
Bottom row: Tom Gifford, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field.
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
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