County Executive’s Corner: Being There for Our Hero Veterans

By Rockland County Executive Ed Day

We saw Rockland County come together this week to mourn the tragic loss of one our own, a young Marine from Pomona who was killed in a military plane crash.

Sgt. Owen Lennon represented the very best of both Rockland and this nation. He was brought back home for his funeral and Rockland residents, both veterans and not, lined up to pay their respects.

Sgt. Lennon was only 26 and a few years out of Ramapo High School when he died earlier this month on what should have been a routine training mission.

We need to remember that for the brave men and women of our armed forces, there is no such thing as a routine mission.

Everyone who wears the uniform understands that they put their life on the line so that the rest of us can live in freedom.

As a military father with one son still on active duty, I know that the stakes are high for the men and women who chose to serve.

Here in Rockland County, we naturally come together to support a fallen soldier.

But that’s not all that we do for our heroes. I’m happy to say that we have a comprehensive set of services for veterans of all ages and at all stages of life.

The Rockland County Veterans Service Agency is doing yeoman’s work under the stewardship of Deputy Director Susan Branam, an Army veteran who flew combat helicopters and earned the rank of captain.

Not only that, but she also holds degrees in psychology and counseling, which enables the County to better serve our veterans, particularly our veterans carrying wounds, both physical and psychological.

We are increasing our efforts to work with other agencies and organizations to provide our veterans with whatever they need.

Or Veterans Services Agency works collaboratively with Bridges in New City to implement the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support program. This program provides Veteran-to-Veteran support for veterans who understand the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Not too long ago we heard that the Veterans Administration was going to end the shuttle bus that brings our veterans from Rockland to medical appointments at VA facilities in Westchester, the Bronx and Dutchess County.

I was one of several people from Rockland who attended a Town Hall meeting held by the Veterans Administration in Castle Point.

They heard our message loud and clear – don’t eliminate the only way that some of heroes can get to the doctor.

They agreed to modify the service, offering rides from our New City outpatient VA clinic by appointment only as a first step toward likely phasing out the service.

We supported Bridges in its effort to get funding for two accessible vans. They just took delivery of the vans and now our heroes can ride in comfort to their appointments.

Not only that, but I am happy to announce that Veterans Administration officials will be here in Rockland soon to listen to what veterans, their families and other members of the public have to say.

The Town Hall Listening Session with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Hudson Valley Health Care System will be held at 1 p.m., Friday, August 4 at the New City Library, 220 North Main St., New City.

I will be there, along with Susan Branam, deputy director of our Veterans Service Agency.

Because we will always make sure that our heroes get what they need. It’s the least we can do in recognition of their service.