GREENPORT — Peggy Snyder was a charter member of the Capital Region Blue Star Mothers, an organization of women with loved ones who serve in the armed forces.
Today, she is the president of the Greene County Region NY13 Blue Star Mothers, and she told an assembly honoring war veterans at Columbia-Greene Community College on Thursday that service to country can be a source of pride but can also take a toll on families.
Snyder talked about the year her son Tom, a master sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, deployed to Iraq.
Snyder recalled waiting as the Marine Corps made a decision about Tom’s deployment as he and his wife, Reena, were expecting a child. Snyder asked Reena to live with her and Tom’s father, Paul, in Athens.
“Things were going along all right and we were all starting to adjust,” Snyder said. “We didn’t get to talk to him too much because of where he was.”
During Tom’s tour of duty in Iraq, Tom’s father was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm that required surgery and Reena gave birth to their first child, Dillon.
Tom came home for a week and a half and was deployed again.
“He said it was bad leaving Reena when he left,” Snyder said. “But going back and leaving a two-week old baby was really difficult.”
Tom’s tour was disrupted a second time when his grandfather died, but he had to miss the funeral. Meanwhile, Dillon started crawling and then walking.
“The chaplain who was with Tom in Iraq videotaped Tom reading a book for Dillon as a Christmas gift,” Snyder said. “Dillon still has the video and he watches it all the time; his father reading him his first book.”
All the time Tom was away, the family worked together and made it through the tough times without him, keeping it together while he served his country.
“It is pretty typical for families to go through things like this and I don’t think other people realize,” Snyder said. “It’s hard. You are thinking about them all the time but life is still going on here and you have to learn to cope. But through it all Paul and I both are absolutely so proud of our son and the fact that he chose to go into the military.”
Pfc. Tim Milano, who served in the U.S. Army from 2010 to 2013, earned an associate degree from Columbia-Greene and is working on his bachelor’s degree so he can serve in law enforcement in the future. Milano, the president of the college’s Student Veteran Club, was one of the guest speakers at Thursday’s ceremony.
“I share the pride of being able to say that I have served in the greatest military in the world,” Milano said. “I have made friends and relationships that will truly stand the test of time. Through these hardships I’ve learned the risks, just like every other veteran, who have also learned the risks, the sacrifices.”
The service of veterans to the country has no expiration date, Milano said.
“Honoring those who have served is not just about today,” Milano said. “It is about how we honor our veterans every day.”
When college President James Campion began his term in 1974, the college had 158 veterans on campus enrolled with help from the post-Vietnam War G.I. Bill, Campion said.
This will be the last Veterans Day ceremony at the college under Campion’s administration as he plans to retire at the end of this school year.
“As I am looking at retirement one of the things I’m going to miss a lot about the college is a very long and noble tradition of recognizing our student veterans and the veterans in our community,” Campion said. “We have had a lot of veterans who have passed through these doors at Columbia-Greene Community College over the years. And I think this is an important tradition to continue as we go on into the future.”