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Press Release

Publish Date: 2/9/2016

Column: Our Local Veterans Deserve All Of The Recognition They Receive And More

Montgomery County Embarks Down Path To Becoming A Purple Heart County

On Tuesday, January 19, I was fortunate to have one of the most rewarding experiences of my two years as County Executive. I had the tremendous opportunity to welcome Thomas Williams, a World War II veteran, to my office in Fonda. Congressman Chris Gibson and I presented Mr. Williams with service medals he had earned while fighting for this country during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-45.

Mr. Williams received the Bronze Star, American Campaign Medal, European-African- Middle Eastern Campaign Medial, with two bronze stars, WWII Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman's Badge 1st award, Honorable Service lapel button and the Marksman Badge with Ridge Bar. Mr. Williams had never previously received those medals for his service due to a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973. The coverage from our local media of Mr. Williams receiving the medals he had earned was outstanding and helped put into proper perspective his accomplishments. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and seen by many near and far. My office even received an email from a gentleman in Kentucky who saw the story on TV and believes he served with Mr. Williams in the 100th Division.

At just 19-years-old, Mr. Williams wasn't looking for medals when he enlisted in the military. In fact even today, at 92, Mr. Williams wasn't seeking out any type of recognition. That's not what people from his generation - the Greatest Generation - do. They enlist because they believe in what America stands for. What they fought for is something that most of us take for granted - our freedom.

I credit my grandfather, Leo Podolec, who was a proud World War II veteran and longtime Amsterdam firefighter, for teaching these values to me. I used his Bible when I was sworn into the position of County Executive and I try to emulate him every day. He is one of the many reasons why I believe we should always remain focused on how we can give back to those who have served.

Last November, the County unveiled its new handicapped-accessible veteran's mini-bus. This vehicle replaced one that was difficult if not impossible for some veterans to use when traveling to the Veterans Affairs office in Albany. It was abundantly clear that the previous van wasn't meeting the needs of our county's veterans and an upgrade was desperately needed.

This past year, with the help of Senator George Amedore, we were able to secure $75,000 from New York State for improvements to the St. Johnsville's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Park. This funding will help to restore the park as a safe community center and honor generations of veterans through improvements to the Memorial Wall.

This month, we have begun the process of designating Montgomery County as a Purple Heart County to honor those wounded or killed serving in the U.S. military. Chapter 446 of the Military Order Of The Purple Heart will bestow this distinction on Montgomery County, on February 23, at the full board meeting of the Montgomery County Legislature. Signs will later be placed at different entrance points in the county to commemorate this distinction and ensure that the county's recognition of veterans continues on.

There are numerous Purple Heart recipients in this county and we would like to recognize and show our appreciation for what they've done for our country. I would like to call on all Purple Heart recipients or their family members to call Pat Prill, our Veterans Service Officer at 518-853-8152. Ms. Prill achieves many victories on a daily basis for our veterans and is a tremendous asset to our team. Please join us as Montgomery County celebrates and thanks all our veterans for their service and as we do our best to show our gratitude for their sacrifices.