CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan recently appointed Western Region activist Amy Owczarczak as chair of our union’s Standing Veterans Committee.
Owczarczak, who is also the Erie County Local 5th Vice President and has been a member of 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 patriotic and help honor and assist vets and active duty service people.”
Owczarczak, who also chairs the Western Region Veterans Committee, hopes for new blood and 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 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 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
Top Photo: 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)