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December 11th, 2013

This Week in Orange County 12-11-13

Orange County Executive Edward Diana
December 7, 1941 - “a date which will live in infamy” declared President Franklin Roosevelt in an address to Congress. On that fateful day 72 years ago, Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which was then still a U.S. territory. The U.S.S. Arizona was completely destroyed and the U.S.S. Oklahoma capsized. Dozens of ships and hundreds of aircraft were destroyed or damaged. More than 3,500 Americans were killed or wounded in this surprise attack that catapulted the United States into World War II and forever changed the course of our nation.

The men and women who served in our armed forces during World War II, and those who kept the home fires burning, were a special kind – selfless, dedicated, and brave patriots. Journalist and author Tom Brokaw called them the “Greatest Generation” and recognized the values that united them – duty, honor, economy, courage, service, and love of family and country to name a few. While their love of country has never waned, now, 72 years later, their ranks are dwindling; more than 1,000 WW II veterans pass away each day.

In fact, we said goodbye to one of our own long-time Orange County residents this week - Ernest Smith Jr. of Goshen passed away at the age of 91. Mr. Smith enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943 which at that time remained the only segregated branch of our U.S. armed services. Mr. Smith and his fellow African-American Marines became known as the Montford Point Marines, named for the location where they trained near Camp LeJuene, North Carolina. He served throughout World War II, including a landing on the island of Saipan in the Pacific, and was honorably discharged in 1946 as a Corporal.

Mr. Smith went on to pursue his education and earned a Master’s degree in Social Work. He married, settled in Orange County, and raised a family here. Mr. Smith served in a variety of capacities in the human services and social work fields in both New York City and Orange County and was instrumental in helping to establish what is the Orange County Department of Mental Health today. We are grateful to Mr. Smith for his service to our country and to our community. On behalf of the residents of Orange County, I send our prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Ernest Smith on his passing.

Sadly, this week we also said goodbye to Donna Smith, a life-long resident of Newburgh, who tragically lost her life in the recent train derailment on the Hudson line. Donna was a friend to many and an active member of our community. She was widely known for generously sharing her time and talent as a volunteer with organizations throughout Orange County, including Habitat for Humanity, the Girl Scouts, and Cronomer Valley Fire Department. To her family and friends, I extend the deepest sympathies of the people of Orange County. 

 During this season of giving, I hope that you will consider following the examples set by Ernest and Donna and find ways that you too may give back to our community.

Until next week, wishing you health and happiness.

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