By Senator Patty Ritchie
For many, when mid-November rolls around, thoughts turn to our troops. On Veterans Day, we honor and thank all military personnel who have served our country. As you remember our veterans, I ask you to also think of those serving on the front lines today and show them that you appreciate their sacrifice.
One of the most important times of the year to let service members know you appreciate all they do is the holidays. This year I’m teaming up with Ogdensburg native and radio personality Melody Burns to urge the public to support the ‘Holiday Mail for Heroes’ program sponsored by the American Red Cross.
Every year, the American Red Cross collects tens of thousands of holiday cards to distribute to our service members at military installations, veterans hospitals and other locations.
Through December 1, I will be collecting holiday cards at my offices in Ogdensburg, Watertown and Oswego before forwarding them to the ‘Holiday Mail for Heroes’ program. Not only am I asking individuals to participate, I am also encouraging civic clubs, fraternal organizations and veterans groups to take part.
For full guidelines and drop-off locations, please visit www.ritchie.nysenate.gov or call my Watertown office at (315) 782-3418.
Our region is home to the largest U.S. Army post in the Northeastern United States, and the 10th Mountain Division is among the Army’s most deployed combat units. Every day we live and work alongside troops who call Ft. Drum ‘home’ and make amazing contributions to our communities.
As your state senator, I’ve been doing my part to make sure we recognize the impact of these brave individuals not only on a local level, but on a state level as well. Last spring, members of the 10th Mountain Division were honored at the State Capitol, at the first-ever ‘10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Day.’
Even though the Capitol is just a few hundred miles away, many people in Albany and other parts of New York just didn’t realize how important Fort Drum is to our state.
This event highlighted not only Fort Drum, but also the brave men and women serving in the 10th Mountain Division.
In addition, our local veterans received recognition through the New York State Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame Program. This year, nearly 40 veterans from across Central and Northern New York were honored at a special ceremony at Fort Drum for their military service to our nation, and their continuing work and involvement in causes that benefit and improve our local communities.
While it’s important to thank and recognize our veterans and current service members it’s also crucial to make sure these brave men and women receive the healthcare they need to cope with the unseen wounds of war.
This month, a peer-support program for returning veterans suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will launch in Jefferson County.
The PFC Joseph Dwyer Peer Support Program for Veterans is named for an Army soldier from New York who enlisted following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and who took his life after returning home from Iraq.
The program, which is being made possible through a $200,000 State Budget grant I was able to secure, will give veterans a chance to interact with others who may be experiencing the same emotions and challenges caused by stress from combat and wartime service.
It’s important that we take time to recognize all that the people who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom.
If you’re a civilian, I encourage you reach out to a soldier this holiday season to let them know you appreciate all they do. If you’re a veteran or are currently serving in the military, I thank you.
We will be forever in debt to you for standing on the front lines to protecting our liberties and our freedom.