This week I ordered that flags at all county buildings be flown at half-staff for Army Sergeant Shawn Farrell, a 24-year-old soldier from Ulster County who was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 28. Sgt. Farrell arrived at Stewart International Airport on Wednesday, May 7 and was escorted to Ulster County along the New York State Thruway by members of his family, the armed forces, State Police, New Windsor Police Department, Ulster County officials, and others. I asked our residents and supporters of military families to gather in New Windsor along the motorcade route to demonstrate their support for Sgt. Farrell and his family. Joined by Sheriff DuBois and District Attorney Hoovler, I was privileged to participate in this solemn event. I was inspired by the local outpouring of public gratitude for Sgt. Farrell’s service, especially those selfless members of our community who took time out of their day and lined the procession route with flags and signs of support.
Wednesday’s ceremony was a reminder that the brave men and women who fight to keep us free are still fighting and continue to need our support. Sgt. Farrell will forever be a hero to his fellow Hudson Valley natives. He served courageously in Afghanistan, as all of our active-duty military and veterans have, and now he returns home. It was appropriate that Sgt. Farrell’s funeral should take place on May 8, Victory in Europe Day, a day in which we honor a previous generation of veterans for their commitment to winning World War II in the European theater and silencing the terror of the Nazi war machine. I join all Orange County residents in prayers for this local hero who has paid a soldier’s debt. Like Shakespeare’s stirring disclaimer, our sorrow must not be measured by this young man’s worth, for then it has no end. Wednesday’s unbidden gestures of support for our men and women in uniform by Orange County residents are part of what make this community strong.
I was proud to also be joined by Orange County’s new director of our Veterans Service Agency (VSA), Christian Farrell. Mr. Farrell is an Iraq veteran who made a career in broadcasting before joining county government. Christian hosts his first veterans’ event May 10 at Thomas Bull Memorial Park starting at 11 a.m. The 2014 Orange County Veterans Spring Picnic and Resource Fair is open to veterans, active-duty military, members of the Guard and Reserve, and their family members. The event offers a free, picnic-style family barbecue as well as information on a wide variety of veterans’ benefits and concerns from participating government agencies and support groups.
I look forward to introducing Christian as the new face of our Veterans Service Agency at the Spring Picnic and Resource Fair even while we lament the retirement of one of New York’s greatest advocates for veterans, former VSA Director Tony Zippo. Tony served in his post for 14 years, and has earned a long and restful retirement after his tireless service to our military men and women.
The Hudson Valley honors its veterans; no matter where you come from across this region, your service matters to the people you help keep free. Sergeant Shawn Farrell and others like him deserve our support. By appointing our new Veterans Service Agency Director, Christian Farrell, my administration has added another advocate for veterans and military family in this community we call home. Wars end, but the battle to repay those who have sacrificed on our behalf must go on.