Mayor and Governor Launch Initiatives to Better Support and Honor New York’s Veterans
By Yehudit Garmaise
At the Veterans Day Breakfast in New York City, this morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose father served in the US Army during World War II, remembered the 156,000 American, British, and Canadian soldiers who, on June 6, 1944, landed, both by air and by sea, on the Normandy beaches of France, in the incredibly difficult and deadly invasion that is considered the beginning of the end of the war.
The mayor called D-Day, "one of the greatest battles of human history that changed the course of literally all our lives right here and everyone alive on the planet today."
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who planned and supervised the invasion, in which 10,000 Allied soldiers died, in one day, fighting the Nazis who were waiting for them on the beaches, told his soldiers, “The eyes of the world are upon you,” the mayor recounted. “The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”
American and other Allied troops did not just fight the Germans on the war’s front, but American troops also liberated many Yidden from concentration camps, such as Dachau, Buchenwald, Dora-Mittelbau, Flossenburg, and Mauthausen.
Some of the soldiers who fought in World War II were themselves frum Yidden, who brought their tefillin into battle, refrained from eating meat, so as to keep kosher, davened whenever possible, and participated in Pesach seders that were described as understandably “unceremonious and untraditional.”
Orthodox Jews continue to serve in the US military as soldiers, chaplains, physicians, and nurses, who keep kosher and observe Shabbos.
At the breakfast this morning, the mayor described how, even after coming home, the struggles of World War II continued for his father, who lost half of one of his legs after it was hit by a Japanese grenade in the Battle of Okinawa.
“Every day thereafter, he felt the physical pain,” Mayor de Blasio said. “And I tell you, honestly, he felt the emotional pain, and he struggled.
“World War II never ended for our family.”
In light of his father's experiences, the mayor said that Veterans Day should not be about nice ceremonies that do not provide any services to those who served our country so honorably.
“Every veteran, whether they served in combat or not: they deserve our support deeply,” said the mayor, who created the city’s Department of Veterans’ Services in 2016 to address veterans’ issues like homelessness, mental health, and employment. “The needs are deep and the needs are real.”
In terms of better supporting veterans, the mayor said that the best way to do so is to hire them.
“Give them a job,” said the mayor, who added that he has hired many veterans, and he “has never been disappointed.” “Give them opportunities. You will get great, great outcomes for everyone.”
In city agencies, for instance, the mayor noted, such as the Fire Department and the Police Department, “you can always tell the members who served in the military first," he said. "There's a little extra discipline.
“There's a little extra focus. They know how to salute right. They bring to everyone else leadership and examples that makes everyone better.”
To help veterans to find jobs more easily, the mayor announced that today, New York City has launched VetConnect, which is an online employment resource that helps veterans to match the skills they have from their military jobs to local jobs openings.
For her part, Gov. Kathy Hochul, today signed legislation that provides, for veterans and their families, benefits such as providing employment and educational opportunities, unemployment benefits, if necessary, and in-state college tuition at SUNY and CUNY colleges.
"Our active service members and veterans have served a high calling to protect our democracy and freedoms, and now it is our turn to support them and their families," Gov. Hochul said. "New York's veterans stood up for us, and we will continue to stand by them."
(REUTERS/US National Archives/Handout via Reuters)