ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Honoring the brave men and women who have served our country, Albany County held a ceremony Thursday to honor local veterans. The county boasts a proud history of residents as service members. From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror, thousands of Albany County residents have put their lives on the line for their community, and they deserve to know that their service has not gone unnoticed.

For the first time since the pandemic, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy held his biannual Honor a Living Veteran ceremony. He honored Penny Lee Deere and Hartley “Willie” Williams on Thursday at the Crossgates Mall. “One of the most important things I take away from this [event]—which has been inspirational to me in these last couple of years is hearing their stories—how they could have came back and live a quiet life?” McCoy asked. “They continue to give back to the community and serve it in any way they can.”  

Penny Lee Deere is a 65-year-old veteran who enlisted in the Army at the age of 19 and served in the Gulf War. When she wasn’t on active duty, she founded Mindbodysoulpenny, Support Our Troops/Art4Vets, and Listening Library, all of which are programs to help veterans after service. She also has been inspiring young men and women to join the force. “I definitely encourage women,” she said. “We need more! I think we’re 13% of the population in the service, and that’s phenomenal.” 

Hartley “Willie” Williams is an 87-year-old veteran who enlisted in the Air Force, also at 19, and served in the Korean War. Willie participated in Airborne Electronics Navigation Equipment Repair during his service and moved to Antigua, where he was the Rotary President. He returned to Albany County to live out his retirement with his wife.

This is the 14th “Honor a Living Veteran ceremony” McCoy has hosted since 2013. Since then, the county has honored 40 veterans.