Elected officals celebrate veterans in Co-op City

(back, l-r) Sergeant Norman Thomas, Co-op City American Legion Post 1871 chaplain, Councilman King and commander Adeyemi LaCrown Toba (front, r) honored the fallen.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

As Veterans Day approaches, Councilman Andy King joined on Friday, November 4 with veterans, elected officials and community members at the Co-op City American Legion to celebrate United States veterans.

There were addresses by the elected officials, a meal, participation in a candle lighting ceremony and the 22-push up challenge.

Approximately 20 people, of all ages, got on their hands and knees and counted out loud as they did the required pushups.

The push up challenge is to raise awareness for veterans suicide.

According to a Veterans Affairs study, approximately 22 veterans per day take their own lives.

King said the challenge was conceived to show veterans “they are not alone” and they can get help with multiple post-service challenges.

In addition to veteran suicide, speakers at the event also discussed veteran unemployment.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics the overall unemployment rate for male veterans in 2015 was 4.5 percent. For women it was 5.4 percent.

The study used veterans who had served since September of 2001.

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, citing George Washington, said the “mark of a nation” is how it treats its veterans.

“I have to admit there are times that we in America have to hang our heads just a little bit on what we have done to our veterans,” Benedetto said.

“We send them out to risk their lives, we send them out to fight our battles and preserve our way of life,” he added, “and then when they come back and they are maimed – be it physically or mentally – we don’t treat them the way they are supposed to be treated.”

NYC Department of Veterans’ Services Assistant Commissioner Jamal Othman, the event’s keynote speaker, talked about some of the steps the city is taking to better veterans affairs.

Othman, who served in the Marines, said firstly, the department is hiring veterans to work for the city.

“How can we go out and say employers need to hire veterans if we are not doing it ourselves,” he said. “Most of our employees are veterans.”

In addition, Othman said the department has partnered with leaders in each of the five boroughs to create satellite offices.

Putting these offices throughout the city is expected to help meet veterans where they are.

“We understood that we just can’t sit back in our office in Manhattan and wait for veterans to come in when they need help,” Othman said.

He added there are four satellite offices throughout the city, the most recent one being built in the Bronx.

The event concluded with a candle lighting ceremony, in which a member of each branch of military lit a candle to remember veterans who have fallen.

“We are saying that there is a darkness created by the demise of that individual,” said Adeyemi LaCrown Toba, commander of the Co-op City American Legion Post. “We want to light a candle to show light and that in every dark spot, even though they died and they paid with their life, they died for a good cause.”

He added, “Those of us that made it want to show there is still light at the end of the tunnel.”

Reach Reporter Robert Christie at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at rchristie@cnglocal.com.

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