By Staff Sgt. Catharine Schmidt, 109th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 18, 2008
STRATTON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. -- Rep. Michael McNulty, D-21st Congressional District, was honored during a visit here May 29 during a breakfast hosted by the Schenectady Chamber and the Schenectady Military Affairs Council. About 70 community and military leaders attended the event at the base dining facility.
The congressman has been in public service for nearly 40 years and was elected to Congress in 1988. His current district includes all of Albany, Montgomery, Schenectady and Schoharie Counties, and portions of Fulton, Rensselaer and Saratoga Counties.
Congressman McNulty has served on numerous committees, including the Armed Services Committee.
"We're very fortunate in this community to have great support among our business community, our business partners (and) the members of our organization," said Charles Steiner, Chamber president. "They support our community in so many fashions. They certainly support the 109th here at the base ... and the military in general across our great county of Schenectady."
"It's our pleasure to host this breakfast for Congressman McNulty," said Col. Anthony German, 109th Airlift Wing commander.
Colonel German welcomed the congressman and then gave a briefing on the base and its effect on the local community. He also talked about the base's missions to resupply the National Science Foundation in Antarctica and Greenland along with the wing's wartime role.
"The congressman has always been there for us," Colonel German said. More specifically, the congressman played a role in a mission the wing took part in almost 10 years ago.
In 1999, the wing helped 21-year-old Kevin Bates who had severe internal bleeding in the abdomen from hemophilia. The only way to save him was to get him to Sweden for a medical procedure.
"Congressman McNulty's behind-the-scenes work to get that mission done and save that young man's life was instrumental in the work here at the base," Colonel German said.
"One of the things I'm a little jealous of the congressman is that he got to go to Antarctica and I only got as far as Greenland before I retired," joked Roger Hannay, SMAC chairman. "But I still got to see the real passion of this unit at work and the way they work together as a team.
"When it comes to the military I'm unequivocal in my praise for Mike and his effort," he continued. "One of the things that I learned in my very short military career in Vietnam for two years ... also my business life of 40-some years is showing up has great value. Showing up, being on time, being ready to fight. (McNulty) shows up for us, whether he shows up physically here or ... in Washington and that really counts. And he shows up for other military interests in this area."
As military and community leaders praised the congressman for his work over the years, Congressman McNulty was sure to praise the servicemembers for the sacrifices they have made throughout the years.
"As I reflect on things that happen to you in life, it's kind of neat when you get into a situation where people are thanking you for things that they did. And that's the why I look at my situation today," Congressman McNulty said. "I have enormous respect and admiration for the people in this room, for their service, for their sacrifice, for the sacrifice of their families, for what they've meant to this community and its economy."
The congressman recounted some remarkable efforts made by the wing, including the story of Dr. Jerry Nielsen's battle with breast cancer in Antarctica during the off-season.
"She was in trouble," Congressman McNulty said. "And our folks went in there on a very dangerous mission. They very strategically dropped supplies that they were able to recover and bring inside the dome so that she could have some treatment before they were able to get her out. She survived, she's out living her life, and the folks at this base saved her life.
"Working with all of you has just been a tremendous joy for me because I've seen what you have done in your regular missions and what you have done above and beyond the call of duty," he said. "And I also want to say to the people in uniform ... thank you for your service."
The congressman also talked about the great freedom the U.S. is able to enjoy because of the military.
"What I work on mostly today is trying to keep my priorities straight," the congressman said. "Part of that for me is that if it had not been for all of the men and women who served in the United States military through the years, the rest of us wouldn't be able to go around bragging, as I often do, about how we live in the freest and most open democracy on earth.
"Freedom isn't free," he continued. "We have paid a tremendous price for it. And I don't let a day go by without remembering the deepest gratitude of all of those, who like my own brother, Bill, made the supreme sacrifice. And all those, like some of those I'm looking at in this room today, who went to far-off places, put their lives on the line for us, thankfully came back home, rendered outstanding service to the community ... these are things I'm most grateful for today."
Congressman McNulty noted the changes he has seen throughout the world during his time in Congress and credits the U.S. military for making those changes.
"The spring of 1990, I went to Berlin to visit the troops," he said. "I'm standing at the Berlin Wall with the people who are out there with their hammers and chisels tearing the thing down.
"I went over to East Berlin and talked to the East Berliners just amazed at the wonderful things they were saying about our country, especially our soldiers. And when I was greeted the next day by our commanding general in Berlin, I couldn't stop talking ... about all my experiences. Then he said to me when I was finished, 'Mike, I wish you could've been there the first day we opened free access through Checkpoint Charlie. We had a receiving line on our side and as the people came through ... one by one they came up to me and said, "You tell your government, especially you tell your soldiers, how grateful we are for their vigilance through the years. It is because of that vigilance that we are enjoying this new freedom today."' At that moment I was never more proud to be an American.
"(Those of you who have served in the military through the years) are responsible not just for the great blessings that we have all enjoyed and our families have all enjoyed, you are responsible for the freedom and democracy of hundreds of millions of other people all around the world," Congressman McNulty said.
"And that's why when I get up in the morning, the first two things I do are to thank God for my life and veterans for my way of life."