PECORARO: Veterans – You Make a Difference!

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By: Bob Pecoraro

North Tonawanda Alderman-At-Large

We celebrate Veterans Day on November 11, as this date marks the anniversary of the end of World War I when the Armistice took place on the 11thhour of the 11thday in November 1918.

Whereas on Memorial Day we reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice when defending the United States, and on Armed Forces Day we honor those currently serving, Veterans Day is a celebration of those who served in the United States military.

Some Veterans may not feel that they accomplished enough and therefore do not deserved to be recognized – to that, I can’t offer a more emphatic No.  A story to make this point, from the book entitledDuty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War, the author, Bob Green, relates when he told his father he met Paul Tibbets (pilot of the Enola Gay) in a store and remarked to Tibbets, “even though you were so important in the war and he wasn’t.”  After some discussion, Tibbets offered the following advice – “who knew about who doesn’t matter.”

Each military member serves in their mission. That is the message – no one person plays a greater part than any other. It takes teamwork and dedication by everyone to get the job done.  So, what does that veteran have to offer to their community when they are no longer in uniform?  When I addressed the North Tonawanda School Board on their vote to allow a Veterans Tax exemption to those who served in combat, I considered what value Veterans bring to a community.  I found the Got Your Six organization, a nonprofit organization that studied post-9/11 Veterans.  Their initial study in 2014 revealed Americans viewed post-9/11 Veterans as “broken heroes” and this organization sought to change this perception. Through partnership campaigns, storytelling videos and a certified program, this organization was able to tell a much different story like:

  1. People who served in the military are more likely to vote (60% of veterans vs. 49% of nonveterans) and;
  2. Veterans spend more hours (160 hours annually) as volunteers compared to nonveterans (120 hours annually) and,
  3. Veterans have a slightly lower unemployment rate (5.5%) compared to nonveterans (6.1%)
  4. Veterans scored higher were on the following issues: trust in their neighbors, favors for neighbors, working to solve problems in neighborhoods, reaching out to public officials and attending public meetings, and participating more in community organizations.

From this and other data, the 2014 notion of veterans as “broken” was a misperception and the study concluded that Veterans return to our communities as trained leaders, team builders, and problem solvers who have great potential to strengthen communities across the country. Communities are stronger when they empower veterans to be leaders and civic assets using their skills to strengthen communities.

What is your responsibility as a Veteran?  Work hard to keep the title Veteran an honorable title – you mattered!  How well do you compare to the data presented earlier in this article? Do you vote, volunteer and participate in your community?  Do you belong to a local Veterans organization? There are many options:  Veterans One-Stop, service specific chapters like the Western NY Chapter of the Association of the US Army, the LD Bell Chapter of the Air Force Association, Niagara Frontier Naval League, or the American Legion.

To all Veterans, I wish you well on this important day as we are truly what Shakespeare called a “band of brothers” in Henry V– you should never to think yourselves “accurs’d” for we served together.

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