November 11, 2018
It was one of the most important days I’ve ever spent in the Capitol. On June 16, 2016, I enjoyed the unforgettable honor of meeting four of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. They were in Albany to commemorate their 75th Anniversary. To be in the same room as these heroes was thrilling. Tuskegee Airmen were expert, daring aviators, flying over 1,500 combat missions that devastated Axis aircraft, supply trains and transport vehicles during World War II. They battled bigotry and racism with equal intensity. The all-black fighting force trained at Moton Field, the Tuskegee Army Air Field, and studied at Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee University.
To look them in the eye and thank them for their service was so humbling and so important to me. Little did I know that I would have another opportunity to express my gratitude. Recently, I had the privilege of meeting Herbert Thope, a pilot for the Tuskegee Airmen. His story was featured during a moving historical presentation at Corning Community College celebrating the inedible impact these American heroes imprinted on our country. Their stories explain exactly why it’s so important to thank them for their service, sacrifice and incredible achievements.
Saying thank you to those who serve is so important. The last two years, I’ve had the honor of attending the veteran’s parade at Center St. Elementary. Local veterans marched through the halls while the children looked on, clapped and waved American flags. It shows our kids at a young age that service is honorable, that sacrifice is important and that saying thank you provides these heroes with a small fraction of the recognition they deserve.
One of the best ways we can thank our veterans each and every day is by being good citizens. Strengthen the communities they’ve served. Participate in the democracy they fought for. Help the neighbors they protect. We owe all of our brave veterans heartfelt gratitude and appreciation. We owe it to them to be good to one another.
I want to challenge all of us to try to show this appreciation and thanks year-round. You can volunteer at your local VA or visit a veteran in a nursing home. You can mow a lawn, rake leaves or shovel a sidewalk for a veteran. If you’re a teacher, encourage students in your class to make cards and care packages to send to our troops in harm’s way overseas. Or it can be as simple as going up to a veteran or one of our brave active duty servicemen and women and saying “thank you,” because these heroes never have and never will hesitate to lay down their life to protect all of us, our families and the rights and freedoms we all hold so dear.