Caribbean pols pay tribute to veterans

A member of Veterans for Peace performs as he marches during the annual Veterans Day parade in New York, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
Associated Press / Andres Kudacki

Several Caribbean legislators in Brooklyn on Saturday, Veteran’s Day, paid tribute to veterans, calling for continued commitment to supporting “our brave heroes.”

“Very few things warm the heart quite like seeing a military member reuniting with family after returning home from deployment,” said New York State Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, the daughter of Haitian immigrants who represents the 42nd Assembly District in Brooklyn. “These indelible images encapsulate a beautiful moment, as joyous children jump into the arms of their mothers or fathers and families are made whole again.

“This Veterans Day — Nov. 11 — let’s recognize the brave men and women who served our great country and let them know we’re committed to providing them the support they earned,” added Bichotte, the first Haitian American from New York City to be elected to New York State Assembly. “Because when the celebration ends and our eyes have dried after these emotional homecomings, we sometimes forget the struggles veterans face transitioning back to civilian life.

“For many, they are left to cope with physical and psychological challenges brought on by their service protecting our country and the freedoms we hold so dear,” Bichotte continued. “I wanted to take time today to say, ‘thank you’ to everyone who has served our country with honor. “Your bravery and sacrifice are beyond measure, and I salute you today and every day.”

She noted that New York State is “proudly home” to one of the largest veteran populations in the country, with over 900,000 veterans residing in the “Empire State.”

But she said, “unfortunately, homelessness is an all-too-common occurrence, as 11 percent of America’s adult homeless population is comprised of veterans, with many more considered at risk,” adding that homelessness among the veteran community affects all races, genders and ages.

She said the vast majority of homeless veterans are male, with women veterans the fastest-growing demographic of homeless veterans in America.

Bichotte said 45 percent of homeless veterans are African-American or Hispanic, with half under the age of 50.

“The freedoms we enjoy should remind us of just how much veterans mean to this country,” she said. “While we should be thanking them each day, Veterans Day is one reminder to reflect on their sacrifices.

“It’s a day to educate ourselves on everything they’ve done for this great nation,” she added. “Have a conversation with a local veteran. Listen to their stories.”

As Caribbean Americans on Saturday spent Veteran’s Day at home with their families, New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, urged all to remember “all of the men and women deployed overseas who do not have that same luxury.

“We should do this not as a tacit approval of war and violence but to pay homage to those who answered their country’s call to service, many of whom still feel dishonored by the treatment they receive when they come back home,” said Williams, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 45th Assembly District in Brooklyn.

“I have had the honor and privilege of working alongside veterans in my time as a City Council Member, most recently in passing a law that prohibits discrimination here in our city on the basis of veteran status and military history,” added Williams, deputy leader of the City Council and candidate for Speaker of the Council. “It was clear to me that far too often, we thank veterans with our words but not our actions. Too many veterans feel abandoned and alone, with government not fulfilling their end of the contract made. I have heard their stories and seen their pain.

“I have deep, profound respect for all of you, including members of my family, and especially for my brother, Matthew Williams, who joined the United States Navy this year,” Williams continued. “I stand in appreciation of all of those, past and present, who have chosen to serve our nation in uniform.

“As we celebrate today [Saturday], we should not forget that Veteran’s Day takes its origin from Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I,” he said. “In other words, Veteran’s Day was born from a celebration of peace. May we always work toward achieving that peace, both at home and abroad.”

New York State Assemblywoman Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson, the daughter of Aruban and St. Martin immigrants, wished “everyone a safe and peaceful Veterans Day, as we honor those who have served in the Armed Forces, fighting for our country.

“This is a time when we can reflect on the many sacrifices made to maintain our freedom and liberties,” said the representative of the 43rd Assembly District in Brooklyn in a brief statement. “We recognize the strength, commitment and bravery of the courageous men and women who have served this nation.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said there are more than 18 million veterans living across America today, thousands of whom hail from or currently reside in Brooklyn.

“We may not always recognize them out of their military fatigues or regalia; in fact, they are more frequently wearing business suits, hospital scrubs, law enforcement uniforms, or just everyday outfits like T-shirts and blue jeans,” he said. “Yet, these heroes and ‘sheroes’ in our midst are out and about in our communities advancing a commitment to service that is second-to-none.

“For all those who have sacrificed so much to preserve our freedom, we offer our gratitude this Veterans Day and every day,” Adams added. “And to those vets in need of a helping hand, we extend our own hands out to ensure they receive the dignity and support they have earned.

“Let us come together as ‘One Brooklyn’ to honor our veterans’ superlative tradition of service by volunteering to serve them and our other neighbors in need,” he urged.

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