On Veterans Day, we honor individuals for making a profound choice — to put their families, their friends, their fellow citizens, and their country above everything else, including their own life.
Veterans in our community were willing to lay down their life so that we can live free, so that we can pursue our dreams and take care of our loved ones. It can be hard to really process the idea that strangers would be willing and honored to do that for us. It is the purest form of sacrifice. Expressing the appropriate appreciation and gratitude for that can be difficult to put into words.
That’s why our actions are so important.
Veterans Day is, obviously, an excellent opportunity to thank our brave servicemen and women for everything they’ve done to keep us safe, but it’s also a reminder of what we should be doing all year. Get involved! Take time to volunteer at the Bath or Canandaigua VA. Contact the Red Cross and see how you can get involved in their excellent programming. These organizations are always looking for help to bolster their homeless veterans outreach, family casework and other volunteer programs. Drop in and visit a veteran in your neighborhood who may live far away from family members.
Teachers can encourage their students to write cards and assemble care packages to send to active-duty personnel during the holidays. It can even be as simple as seeing a veteran or active duty servicemember in your community, stopping, shaking their hand and saying “thank you for your service,” because they never have and never will hesitate to lay down their lives to protect us, our families and our freedoms.
Last week, I had the opportunity to, once again, attend a very moving and special tribute to our veterans at the annual veterans' 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 moment that I thought about as I walked into the voting booth on Tuesday. This democracy, this free society we enjoy, is only possible based on the sacrifices of those brave men and women. They’ve braved war so that our transitions of leadership can be peaceful and based on principles, not violence. That is why it is so important for all of us to be engaged, active and charitable citizens. Men and women laid down their lives to give us that opportunity. So let us continue to thank and honor these heroes year round. May God bless our veterans and our active duty servicemembers.
— A Hornell native, New York state Assemblyman Phil Palmesano represents the 132nd District.