By Jason B. CutshawSeptember 2, 2010
Fort Drum welcomed back a special guest Friday when U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York paid an official visit to the North Country.
The purpose of her visit was to meet with Soldiers as they prepare to leave for military operations in Afghanistan and to learn what she can do as their representative in the U.S. Senate.
While at Fort Drum, the senator had an office call with Maj. Gen. James L. Terry, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander.
After the office call, Gillibrand met with division Soldiers preparing to deploy, who are also New York state residents, and asked what she could do for them as their senator.
Afterward, a Soldier talked about the meeting and how Gillibrand listened to issues the Soldiers had as they prepare to head into harm's way.
"It was a great visit," said Staff Sgt. Brian Niggli, career counselor with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion. "There was a lot of good information and people had good questions. We covered a lot, including the economy and the housing situation.
"She said job creation was her main focus and that is what she is pushing for in Washington," he added. "She took lots of notes, shared some great ideas and was very knowledgeable, and I think she will put a lot of our comments to good use."
Before leaving Fort Drum, Gillibrand spoke about what issues she and the Soldiers discussed and what she can do to support them as they deploy overseas.
"It was a terrific meeting," Gillibrand said. "The purpose of my meeting was to listen to the men and women who are about to be deployed to Afghanistan and to talk to them about some of the issues they are going to face and some of the concerns they have.
"Not surprisingly, we talked about the economy, the job market, and (the fact) that there are very few jobs being created right now and how people are really struggling," she continued. "We talked about affordable housing needs and how when the troops come back home, there is going to be an enormous need for affordable housing.
"And we talked about family life and what it is like for their Families when they are deployed," she added. "We discussed what it is like to be a military Family and what kind of support they need from me."
She also mentioned some of family issues the Soldiers had and what can be done to better the Family Members' lives.
"We also talked about things that can be done to help enhance their lives," Gillibrand said. "We talked a little bit about early childhood education, day care, access to good schools, and those are all things we are working for."
The senator also mentioned one of the items she is working on in the Senate to help those Soldiers, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, who will soon return to civilian life.
"We discussed the job market, and one of my concerns is that one out of five young veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan is unemployed right now," she added. "So one of the bills I am focused on right now is tax credit for every employer who hires a young veteran."
Before leaving Fort Drum, Gillibrand took time to thank the Soldiers, Family Members and civilian workforce for all they do and said she looks forward to returning in the future.
"I am extremely grateful for everyone's service, for their sacrifices, for their courage and that I am here to be a voice for them," Gillibrand said. "They need to know that I am not only their voice and their representative in Washington, but that I am going to fight for them and fight as hard for them as they fight for us, every single day."