WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (May 28, 2014) -- For more than 200 years, the Watervliet Arsenal workforce has enjoyed the fruits of a good, middle-class life due in large part to our nation's troops. Homes were bought, children sent to college, and a series of benefits propelled many to have the "golden years" that they had always dreamed of.

And so, there is a sense of duty to our servicemen and women that goes beyond dates on a calendar that focuses our nation on its military, such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day. After all, for more than 200 years, the arsenal has produced the weapons, parts, and material that have helped hundreds of thousands of our nation's warfighters to come home safely from battle.

This week a number of individuals and family members came together to represent the U.S. military at the City of Watervliet's Memorial Day parade. The arsenal started participating in local parades six years ago as a way to reconnect the community to its military. The arsenal is the only active-duty Army post between the U.S. Military Academy and Fort Drum, some three hundred miles apart.

During these past six years, there have been a few who have passionately given countless hours of their own time toward the planning, coordinating, building, and then participating in the Memorial and Veterans Day parades. To them, supporting the parades is not a tasking but a sense of duty to our military.

One of the key individuals to the success of the arsenal's community engagements is Michael Gully, who is a mechanical engineering technician at the Army's Benét Laboratories. Gully has been instrumental in the planning and coordination, as well as in the building of floats that well represented the arsenal and Benét Lab's history, and unique research and manufacturing capability.

Why does he do it?

"I feel a strong, personal need to do what we do to ensure that the arsenal appropriately honors our men and women in uniform," Gully said. "The reason for my passion becomes quickly evident whenever I see an elderly Veteran who asks nothing more than for their service or the service of a fallen comrade to be remembered. Our participation means so much to them."

Yellow Ribbons, as well as signs on local businesses saying that they support our troops, once flourished throughout New York's Capital District. They are now a rarity on any drive in the Albany area.

So, if it were not for people like Michael Gully and for the great work by local Veteran Service Organizations, who would step up to ensure that the sacrifices made by our military are never forgotten?

Maybe, the community would still rise up on the holidays to give our nation's military the respect, honor, and commitment that it deserves without much encouragement.

But the arsenal will not leave that to chance because supporting the troops is in the arsenal's DNA. Woven into the arsenal's tapestry is the fact that eight generations of New Yorkers have now directly supported our nation's servicemen and women from the Watervliet Arsenal.

To many in the arsenal workforce, their sense of duty to the U.S. military does not end when they drive out the gate at the end of a work day. Already, many are now planning for the upcoming Veterans Day Parade through the City of Albany. We will not forget.

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The Watervliet Arsenal is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility and is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States having begun operations during the War of 1812. It celebrated its 200th anniversary in July 2013.

Today's arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $100 million.

Benét Labs has a rich history of designing and fielding new weapon systems. Although Benét officially opened its doors as the Army's large caliber research and design facility in 1962, its weapons research at the Watervliet Arsenal dates back to the 1840s.

Page last updated Wed May 28th, 2014 at 10:42