Oswego County Legislature Chairman's Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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October 26, 2009

Making Oswego County a Veteran Friendly Community

Veterans' Day is quickly approaching, and many of us will be involved in activities and ceremonies that honor those who have served in our nation's Armed Forces.

There are more than 11,000 veterans living in Oswego County. We all know at least one. Our Veterans Service Agency, headed by Donna Kestner, assists veterans in applying for benefits and navigating the layers of federal and state veterans' services.

Our veterans are a diverse group and connect many generations of families, from grandfathers that served in World War II or the Korean War to young men and women now serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am a Vietnam veteran myself, and I understand the sacrifices made and the challenges that many veterans face trying to access benefits or navigate the levels of bureaucracy.

Over the past few months, many organizations and individuals in our county have supported activities and events to make sure that veterans receive the recognition they deserve. I would like to call your attention to some of these efforts:

In September, the Legislature voted unanimously to extend veterans tax exemptions to non-combat men and women who served in the military during the Cold War years. Combat veterans have been eligible for the property tax exemption for years, but non-combat veterans did not receive this exemption.

Anyone who served in the United States Armed Forces during times of peace, between Sept. 2, 1945 and Dec. 20, 1991, is now eligible for a 15 percent exemption on the assessed value of their residence, capped at $12,000, for their county property taxes. To apply for the exemption, veterans need to fill out an application form and turn it in to their local assessor. The form is available on line by clicking HERE.

Another outstanding example of our community's support for veterans was the second annual Project Healing Waters event held in September on the Salmon River. A group of 15 disabled soldiers and veterans spent a weekend with fishing guides and mentors, learning how to tie flies and fish for trout and salmon. Businesses, veteran's organizations, churches, and others from across our community stepped up and provided meals, lodging, guide services, funding and moral support to the effort. I am humbled and proud of the show of support that this effort generates and I commend chapter coordinator Fred Kuepper of Mexico for the fantastic program he organizes.

In July, I was proud to be part of the “Thank a Service Member” commemoration during Harborfest. Again, it was a wonderful show of support that crossed generations of families to honor hundreds of past and present service members. Peter Allen of Oswego coordinates the local Thank a Service Member initiative in Oswego County. He does a phenomenal job.

One of the most vocal legislators in support of our veterans is Legislator Louella LeClair of Fulton. I recently appointed Legislator LeClair to be the veterans' liaison on the Legislature and assist me in advocating for the county's involvement in veterans affairs.

One of her first steps is to look into organizing our county to become a “Veteran Friendly” community. This involves a coordinated effort by schools and colleges, churches, businesses and public officials to focus on veteran care, care of family members, youth care, and community support.

Several groups in Oswego County are already doing this by adopting platoons and sending care packages to deployed soldiers. More than 30 local businesses offer military discounts to soldiers through the county tourism department's military discount program (see www.oswegocounty.com/militarydiscounts.html). Oswego County businesses who want to get involved can contact the tourism office by or call 349-8322.

If there is enough support in our county, we would like to invite the Yellow Ribbon team to provide training to become a Veteran Friendly community. If you are interested in getting involved in this effort, please contact Legislator LeClair at 593-8362 or by , or myself at 349-8230 or by .

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