Last weekend I was honored to speak at the dedication of the Rockland County Gulf War – War on Terror Monument. As County Executive, I often have the privilege of speaking at events around our beloved county but it is truly rare that I have the chance to take part in something so meaningful.
As a military parent, the feelings present were something that I understood all too well. The fear that someone you love will not return home or return deeply scarred. The pride that they have answered the call to protect our nation from terror and the evil forces that hate everything that we stand for. The intense love you feel when witnessing their strength, sense of duty and patriotism.
Those who have served embody the true spirit of America. The spirit that is ever-present in so many here. The spirit that says: what can I do to help, what can I do to serve, how can I rise and meet the challenges that face our country.
As you will see if you visit the monument it is truly a fitting tribute to those who served in these wars and made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It is also the first monument of its kind in New York and one of the first across our nation. Showing exactly how those of us in Rockland County feel for our veterans.
But the purpose of this monument is not just to pay tribute to those who served and gave their lives. It is for their families, for their friends, for those who watched over them, for everyone touched by the Gulf War and the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our hope is that this monument can help bring closure for those of us who have lost friends and family. It was built to bring a sense of peace to those who served and may still be battling the demons they first encountered overseas.
Around Veterans Day we are often reminded to thank our veterans for their service and while it is important to do so. It is time for us as a community, as a county, as a country do more. It is time to move beyond those simple platitudes and ask them what they need, how can we help?
Those who served and fought overseas never truly leave those battlefields behind. They are indelibly changed by their experiences in ways many of us will never understand. But just as they felt the duty to serve, we have a duty to help them, to talk to them, to listen to them if they are willing to speak about their experiences and simply be there for them in whatever ways they need.
This monument is a testament to our commitment to our veterans. Rockland County will be there for them; we will give them space to reflect; we will stand by them in their time of need; we will not ever forget the sacrifices each and every one of them have made for our safety and our freedom.
It is our solemn pledge that we will support those still serving overseas when they return home as well.
It is my fervent hope that those seeking the sense of peace and closure we see coming from this monument know that the collective embrace of the people of Rockland will always be there for them. May God bless you all and may God bless America.