Page 12 - Work Force December 2021
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Owczarczak appointed chair of Standing Veterans Committee
 CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan
recently appointed Western Region activist Amy Owczarczak
as chair of our union’s Standing Veterans Committee.
patriotic and help honor and assist vets and active duty service people.”
Owczarczak, who also chairs the Western Region Veterans Committee, hopes for fresh ideas from veterans committees across our union.
“We have a lot of people who joined the Western Region Veterans Committee because someone in their family served and they wanted to be involved,” said Owczarczak.
She pointed to all the activities that veterans committees across the state perform, including honoring deceased veterans by laying wreaths on their graves, raising awareness on veterans’ issues and collecting donations to help veterans in need.
Owczarczak has spent more than 18 years of active and reserve service with the Navy and the Air Force Reserves.
She first enlisted in the Navy because she wanted to travel and meet people. She said she would
who is also the Erie County Local 5th Vice President and has served on the statewide committee for several years, said the most important thing she wants everyone to know is that veterans committees aren’t just for those people who have had military careers.
“Anyone can get involved with their region’s veterans committee,” Owczarczak said. “They are for anyone who wants to do something
From left, Western Region Veterans Committee members and region officers participate in a recent wreath-laying ceremony in Buffalo. From left, Richard Preischel Jr., Richard Preischel Sr, Bob Pyjas, committee Chair Amy Owczarczak, Western Region President Steve Healy, Western Region Executive Vice President Tim Finnigan and Erie County Local 1st Vice President Stephen Szymura. (Photo provided by Amy Owczarczak)
do it again in a heartbeat because serving in uniform gives her a great sense of satisfaction that she’s serving her country and her
loved ones.
Owczarczak served as a Yeoman
in the Navy before enlisting in the
Air Force Reserves, where she still actively serves as a reservist with the 914th Aeromedical Staging Squadron out of the 914th Air Refueling Wing at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
Owczarczak hopes that one positive thing that has come out
of the COVID-19 pandemic is that civilians realize how challenging isolation due to deployment can be.
“Deployment is a lot like the lockdown we’ve just gone through,” she said. “When we’re deployed, we don’t see our families or our friends for months at a time and there is often little to do. Anyone who’s served in the military is used to that, and I hope that civilians have a new appreciation for that sacrifice.”
For those who do have an interest in getting involved, Owzarczak encourages reaching out to their region offices.
“So many good things go on through the veterans committees, and we need all the help we can get to make sure our veterans get the recognition, honor and treatment they deserve for having given so much to our country,” she said.
— Mathew L. Cantore
 CPhelps retires; will continue to advocate for veterans
SEA Long Island of being involved.” As part of the Standing Veterans Region activist She said she was excited to be Committee, Phelps played an
 Maryann Phelps recently retired from her job at SUNY Stony Brook.
appointed to chair the committees. “The most rewarding part of my CSEA career was the appointments
to chair the region and the Standing Veterans Committees,” Phelps said. “It was also my distinct privilege to give leadership to the members of both of the veterans committees. These folks are just committed to attending meetings, discussing the topics at hand, and getting the job done. They are the people that make it all happen!”
As a member and later the chair of the committees, Phelps played a key role in helping veterans in any way she can.
“Nothing gives me greater pleasure then assisting our CSEA veterans and our nation’s veterans whether it has to do with them needing a resource, food, clothing answering questions about benefits, or even to help get legislation passed,” she said.
active role in advocating for state legislators to pass the Veterans Equality Act in 2016, which gives all public employee military veterans who were honorably discharged, regardless of where or when they performed military duty, the ability to buy back up to three years of military service time for pension credit. The legislation was a major CSEA legislative priority.
“The committee worked on that legislation for many years,” Phelps said. “We were all so happy when it finally passed.”
Although she is retired, Phelps is committed to continuing to advocate for veterans and will continue to chair the region committee.
“I am looking forward to serving our veterans as a CSEA Retiree,” she said.
— Wendi Bowie
As a longtime
union activist who
held numerous
positions in
her local, region and statewide, Phelps has also worked on behalf
of veterans through our union’s Standing and Long Island Region Veterans Committees. Most recently, she served as chair of both committees.
“With all of [my] involvement
[in our union], what I found most rewarding was to be part of the veterans committees at both the region and statewide levels,” Phelps said. “After all, I entered the military fresh out of high school, so it was only natural that my interest was sparked immediately at the thought
 12 The Work Force
December 2021

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