NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Memorial Day is much more than the unofficial start of the summer. It’s a day to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in war.
So, as many get excited for what the warm season will bring, it can be much more personal for veterans. CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge has more on how some local vets get through today and every day.
Anthony Silvera never thought this would be his job, but the Long Island man is glad it is. He’s now the supervisor of Vet Connect NYC, after serving in the Air Force for 30 years.
“I got to see a lot of things, went to Iraq twice,” Silvera said.
And now he gets to interact with other veterans every workday.
“We are all veterans that work there, right? So we understand what its like to be a veteran, what it’s to leave a family and join an organization that’s bigger than yourself,” Silvera said.
Vet Connect is a network of more than 100 organizations that provide various services to veterans and their families, like counseling and employment assistance. It comes in handy during times like Memorial Day.
“You think about barbecues, and people get excited about that, but for you, it’s more personal and hurtful,” veteran Jessica Birdwell said.
Birdwell, 27, served in the Army for three years but was medically discharged. Vet Connect set her up with a job as a case manager when she moved to New York, and she said it helps to be surrounded by other vets on Memorial Day.
“I have friends that were killed in action. I have friends that have committed suicide. So, that’s always a tough time and a tough day,” Birdwell said.
Her duties now include finding and reaching out to veterans in need, who may not be your typical looking veteran like her.
“We are your mailman, your teacher. I mean, we are all over the place,” Birdwell said.
As for Silvera, he, too, hopes to continue to help every veteran he can.
“When you hit that sweet spot and you’re able to help someone who really needs it, it just makes everything worthwhile,” Silvera said.
It’s a worthwhile role to have on such a meaningful day.