A Column of News & Comment by Senator James L. Seward 

On Veterans Day, Americans should pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by our veterans.  Whether combat veterans or Cold War veterans, all who served need to be given proper praise for a job well done.  Our veterans have faced hardships that a non-veteran could never fully understand.  Some have faced death in defending our nation’s freedom.  Veterans possess the core American values of loyalty, duty, respect, honor, selfless service, personal courage, and integrity.

We need to teach our children the true meaning of Veterans Day and the best way to do so is for adults to set a good example.  We must keep the torch of memory alive and never forget the sacrifices of our veterans.  The youth of today need to learn about the heroes of yesterday.

Veterans deserve to know that we appreciate their service.  We must let our veterans know that we truly believe America is better because of their sacrifices.  Take the time to thank a veteran, not just on Veterans Day, but any time you meet a veteran.

I have consistently worked to protect the rights and benefits of our brave servicemen and women who have sacrificed so much to defend our freedoms and keep our families safe.  In recent years, I have focused on programs and laws that will help veterans find employment following their service to our country.  Several laws to reduce taxes for veterans and improve healthcare have also been enacted.

Recently, it was my great honor to dedicate a portion of a state highway in my senate district in memory of United States Marine Corps Sergeant John Kempe Winslow.  Sergeant Winslow was a life-long resident of Hartwick and a decorated Marine Sergeant who served two tours of duty in Vietnam.

Sergeant Winslow was wounded during his first tour in Vietnam and was awarded the Purple Heart for his heroic service.  For many, that may have marked the end of their days in uniform, but not John. After spending several months recovering in a New York hospital, he was ready to continue his service to our country.  Sergeant Winslow returned to Vietnam for a second tour and was killed in action in July of 1969.

Now it is my honor to pay tribute to another local man who gave his life in service to our country.

Every year, the state senate enshrines New York’s prominent veterans in the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame.  The hall of fame honors outstanding veterans from the Empire State who have distinguished themselves both in military and civilian life.

This year’s honoree from the 51st Senate District is Corporal Michael L. Mayne of Burlington Flats.  Michael proudly served in the United States Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom.   He was assigned to the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, a unit of the 25th Infantry Division based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

Corporal Mayne tragically lost his life, along with two other American soldiers and a translator on February 23, 2009, in Balad, Iraq when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire.

Prior to his service to his country, Michael had already left an indelible mark on his hometown that will last for generations to come.

On Memorial Day 2003, he unveiled a very special Eagle Scout project in memorial park in his hometown of Burlington Flats – flagpoles for each branch of the military.  To this day, flags representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, and the United States continue to wave.  A memorial to Michael has since been installed underneath the flags he so proudly conceived and built.

You can read more about Corporal Mayne Michael and the rest of the hall of fame inductees online, at https://www.nysenate.gov/honoring-our-veterans.

While generations apart, both Sergeant Winslow and Corporal Mayne displayed great courage and valor in service to our nation.  They are both true American heroes.