When State Sen. Greg Ball (R, C - Patterson) asked Brewster officials to pick a veteran worthy of a nomination to the 40th District Hall of Fame, the choice was easy.
Village of Brewster trustees decided last week to go with Art Hanley, a Vietnam veteran who they say has contributed to the community in ways that not many others have.
"When you think of somebody who is always giving back to the veterans and working for the veterans, his name is the first one that pops into your head," Mayor Jim Schoenig said, adding that as far as he can remember, Hanley has been an advocate for those who serve. Village Historian and Putnam County Joint Veterans Council member Denis Castelli backed the pick, too.
"His name is always coming up, whether it's for Memorial Day, Veterans Day or something else. He was by far the best choice the Village could have made ."
Hanley is a member of . He took over as commander from 2005 to 2008. Each year he was named an All-State Post Commander, and the last he was one of 98 individuals recognized as an All-American.
His contributions to raising awareness for veterans don't stop there. He has dedicated time to the Southeast Honor Roll, too. The memorial pays tribute to folks who were residing here when they were called to serve.
Hanley told Patch he was surprised and "humbled" when he heard of the nomination. He said that no other honor he has received tops this one, as it is coming from his community.
"This means so much to me."
Warmth from civilians was missing when he returned home from Vietnam some decades ago. He recalled those times as one reason his committment to veteran affairs is so strong.
"Some of us were accosted, spat upon, called baby-killers, vilified," he said. "... I wanted to make sure that never happened in the future."
Hanley named two more driving forces behind his efforts: his belief that the government should remember veterans and make their needs a priority; and his respect for those who served both before and after him.
"I consider all those serving today my own," Hanley said, adding that his son is currently stationed with the Army in Italy. Maj. Brian Hanley lives there with his wife Melissa and their two children. He has been deployed to Iraq twice. "[My son's service makes veteran causes] even nearer and dearer to my heart."
Hanley and nominees representing other municipalities will be honored Nov. 10 at an inaugural ceremony for the Hall of Fame. The event is slated to start at 6 p.m. and will be held in the auditorium of the Putnam County Emergency Services Building in Carmel (112 Old Route 6).