PLATTSBURGH — When Col. Michael Barcomb was commissioned in the Army in 1987, he became part of an American minority.
“Roughly 1 percent of our population serves in the military,” he told the crowd gathered Monday at American Legion Post 20 in Plattsburgh to observe Veterans Day.
And yet the impact of that minority, who have traveled the globe defending freedom and democracy, Barcomb noted, is far from minor.
“I am reminded of the words of Winston Churchill: ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,’” he said.
CELEBRATE THE CHOICE
Barcomb was born and raised in Mooers and is the recipient of numerous awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
He served as the ceremony’s keynote speaker, reminding attendees of the importance of Veterans Day.
“Unlike Memorial Day, it is the day that we recognize not just those that have given their lives in war but those that have worn the uniform, serving in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines and the Coast Guard,” he said.
Above all, Barcomb continued, it is an opportunity to celebrate the choice they made to serve their country.
“For some, it meant the worldwide conflict of World War II, or a lifetime of peacekeeping missions or a tense standoff for a Cold War,” he said. “Others found themselves in the jungles of Vietnam or in Korea, Panama or other conflicts ... for many, service has meant multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.”
And for reservists and National Guard members, Barcomb added, it has meant giving up civilian jobs to report to duty.
“These service members are our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, our sisters, our sons and our daughters, some of whom are wounded warriors or have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” he said.
‘MORE SECURE WORLD’
Also speaking at the event were Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, Congressman Bill Owens, Plattsburgh Deputy Town Supervisor Martin Mannix, Fourth District American Legion Auxiliary President Margaret Page, American Legion Post 20 Commander Joe Patnode and Post 20 Auxiliary President Joyce Hinds.
“We would not have the freedom to live the life we live today if not for the sacrifice of a soldier,” Hinds told the crowd. “They create a more secure world for us and should be held up as role models.”
In between speakers, the Plattsburgh High School Band played the American and Canadian national anthems and “God Bless America,” to which members of the audience provided vocals.
Also part of the event were a posting of colors and rifle salute by the veterans organization Forty & Eight, a performance of “Taps” by bagpipers Bill Long and Gerald Tetrault, a wreath-laying ceremony led by Page and a benediction by American Legion Auxiliary Chaplain Mary Fredette.
In addition, Barcomb, who is now a member of the Army Reserve, thanked the veterans in the audience for “setting the example that has inspired me and my fellow service members to raise our hand in voluntary service for this great nation.”
He asked that people take time to honor service members of both the past and present.
“First, volunteer to help a veteran or service member, regardless of whether you are a veteran or not,” Barcomb said. “Today, we have many wounded veterans, and the world needs our compassion.”
People can find out how to help, he noted, by contacting their local veterans affairs office or other state or local government outreach programs.
“Given that we as a nation are at war today, there are many families and communities all over this country who could use a helping hand,” Barcomb said.
“For many of those on deployment, knowing their families are receiving support while they are serving in the armed forces can bring about reassurance and peace of mind.”
The colonel also encouraged people to promote military service among youth.
“We need to continue to do a great job of educating our younger generation to let them know that the military is a viable and valuable career option with unlimited opportunities,” he said.
And lastly, Barcomb stressed the importance of veterans sharing their stories of service with others.
“Let everyone know what you’ve done, so they can see the many faces of military service and appreciate the personal service of their neighbors,” he said.
“If you are not a veteran, find someone who is and ask that veteran about their service or simply say, ‘Thank you.’”
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For more on local Veterans Day observances, look online with this article for a slide show by Staff Photographer Rob Fountain.