CORTLANDT, N.Y. – More than 150 attendees packed Cortlandt Town Hall on Monday in observance of Veterans Day.
Among several speakers at the event was William "Willy" Nazario, the National Patriot of the Year for the Military Order of the Purple Heart. He is also chairman of the Hudson Valley Veterans Committee. Nationally, thousands of veterans are nominated for the Patriot of the Year award each year. Cortlandt resident Nazario was the 2012 recipient of the highest honor granted by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Nazario reminded attendees that the "enhanced use lease" plan, once considered by the federal Veterans Affairs Department to downsize the Montrose Veterans Affairs campus, had expired. Nevertheless, Nazario said, he is still ready to fight should the campus be targeted again.
"If they come back and think they're going to bulldoze that facility, I will be there in front of it," Nazario said. "We're not asking for handouts. We put on the uniform."
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said Veterans Day and Memorial Day were two official days to thank veterans, but "the other 363 days of the year are forgotten, and I am saddened and sometimes outraged when I see a soldier, and people walk by and don't say, 'Thank you.' "
"We just had an election," Astorino said. "Doesn't matter who you voted for, but the fact that you're able to vote is the reason they put the uniform on."
Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi said, "Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are serving our country today."
Neil Gross of Mohegan Lake, a Vietnam veteran and guest speaker, said that returning veterans would continue to require services.
"A lot of work has to be done to take care of the new veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.
The 89th Army Band of the New York Guard, based at Camp Smith, performed at the ceremony as well.