Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division honored in Albany
Over the past decade, the 10th Mountain Division has been one of the most deployed units in the Army. Wednesday, New York lawmakers honored those years of service and sacrifice. Our Brian Dwyer was there as those soldiers made their way to the Capitol and as their leader, Fort Drum's Commanding General, gave a rare speech on the Senate floor.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- Shortly after 9 a.m., Fort Drum Commanding General Mark Milley made his way to the Capitol. He and about 70 of his soldiers were in Albany to be honored by the state Senate.
May 23rd, 2012, now officially "10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Day" in New York State.
"To have the New York Senate honor us on this day and have a ‘10th Mountain Day’ here in the State of New York is a tremendous, real distinct honor of recognition,” Milley said.
The day began with General Milley and Senator Patty Ritchie touring an exhibit of various 10th Mountain and Fort Drum equipment, photos and facts. It was put together by the soldiers themselves.
"We tried to bring a lot of soldiers who were born and raised in New York, native New Yorkers. But among them are some real heroes. There's several awards of valor out here, Purple Hearts, they did a great job of representing the Division here in the Capitol," Milley said.
After checking out the exhibit, taking a tour and getting some breakfast, the Major General did something that hardly any non-elected official ever gets to do: Speak on the Senate Floor.
The Color Guard started it off, Ritchie helped proclaim the day and the General took over.
"We've always fought for the people of America. We come from the people of America. We defend the people of America. It's important for the representatives of the people are linked in and know the Army for which they raise and maintain," Milley said.
After a lengthy applause, the Senate paused for about 10 minutes. Senators wanted to shake hands and take pictures.
"I think it was important to showcase for all my colleagues, especially the ones from the city, how important the 10th Mountain Division is, though it may be in the North County, how important it is to New York State. How important it is to the whole country,” Ritchie said.
Senators said they are amazed by the service and sacrifice that's claimed nearly 300 10th Mountain lives since 9/11 and wounded some 6,000 more.
While the Army is federally funded, the state can help fund the housing projects needed around Fort Drum and also recently spent $5 million to help protect Fort Drum from budget cuts.