My thanks to Governor Cuomo for convening this summit and for providing the leadership necessary to quickly bring this legislation to the point of enactment.
To our veterans and to our military families, I bring you the warm greetings of the New York State Assembly, and the best wishes of the Chairman of our Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, who is here.
Also with us is the sponsor of the legislation the Governor just announced, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz.
A number of our Assembly colleagues are veterans or are members of military families, so I want you to be assured that your voice is ever present in the People's House of our State Legislature.
Few of us can comprehend combat or the breadth of the challenges veterans are facing.
As Speaker and as an assemblyman, I am aware that many combat veterans are having an extremely difficult time finding employment, locating a place to live, obtaining the necessary health care, and rebuilding their lives.
The sheer number of combat veterans who are committing suicide, who are suffering with traumatic brain injuries, PTSD and MST, who are homeless and living in poverty is shameful and should unsettle every American citizen.
Truly, my heart goes out to each and every military family who is struggling to get back the sons, daughters, parents, spouses, siblings and friends they love and are fighting not to lose.
I and my Assembly colleagues on both sides of the aisle want to help you.
We are ready - and have always been ready - to work with the Governor, with our counterparts in the Senate, with our congressional delegation and with the Administration in Washington to help you in any way that we can.
We are unanimous in our agreement that caring for our veterans is not a partisan issue, but is so clearly our moral and national obligation.
Over the years, we have taken actions both in our capacities as individual lawmakers and as members of a legislative body to help veterans make the transition to civilian life, including enactment of the Veterans' Employment Act and our agreement to provide veteran-owned businesses with increased opportunities in state contracting.
We are here today because we want to do more. We want to work with you to make sure New York is a better, more compassionate and nurturing place for veterans and for military families.
If I might, let me make one more observation.
Among the many memories of September 11th 2001 that I will always have is the rising up of a generation of courageous young people who enlisted to fight terrorism and to make sure this never happens to America again.
Thousands were lost. Many more returned profoundly injured. These young men and women stood up for America in our darkest hour. Now, we must stand up for them.
A big part of our challenge is outreach to veterans who are unable or unwilling to seek help, and to a public that needs to understand that this is more than just a federal government responsibility.
Hopefully, with this summit, we take New York a step in the right direction.
To those of you who served and to the families whose hearts and minds went with them, I thank you. The Assembly thanks you.
And again, we thank the Governor for providing the leadership necessary to focus New York on the issues of importance to our veterans and our military families.