Albany County Executive Mike Breslin said he doesn't want war veterans to receive the lukewarm reception he got after 12 years of service in the Army during the Vietnam era. Instead, he wants them to know he's grateful for their service and make life a little easier for them.
I spent 12 years in the Army, and when I came back, I didn't get much of a welcome at all, he said. "Today is different. There's a small percentage less of people serving who are going overseas with families at home. We want to make sure there are enough resources and that they're all taken care of."
MaryAnn Jones, director of the Albany County Veterans Bureau, said the program, known as Return the Favor, is expected to roll out in mid-September. It will ask businesses to participate in a discount program for veterans. If veterans want access to those discounts, they will have to go to the bureau and fill out a DD 214 form, which is a record of discharge, and fill out a FAVOR form, which the county clerk will keep on file. Jones said this program is only meant for those who were honorably discharged.
Veterans will then receive a photo ID card and must present them to businesses that have a sticker in front of the store indicating they are part of the program. Designing those stickers will be Stacy Myron, owner of Tumbling Tykes and a resident of Colonie. She will also be participating in the program.
Jones said this program should be seen as a win-win for both the veterans and the companies. Not only will veterans be able to have access to more benefits, this will hopefully drive more people into those stores.
"I think, from a business standpoint, you are creating traffic within your store," said Colonie Chamber of Commerce President Tom Nolte. "People are calling businesses and inquiring about the offer and are going in and taking advantage of the offer. They're then hopefully gaining a new customer."