By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
CAIRO — A lifetime of service to his country and community and a record of commitment second to none.
That was why American Legion Commander Michael Adrian was selected for induction into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame, state Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-46, said.
Hinchey presented Adrian with a plaque Dec. 14 at a ceremony at American Legion Mohican Post 983.
One veteran is selected for the honor from each Senate district annually. The Hall of Fame was established in 2005 to recognize outstanding veterans who have distinguished themselves both in military and civilian life.
“Cairo American Legion Commander Michael Adrian has protected our country with distinction, and still today, after a 22-year career in the Armed Forces, his service continues in Greene County as a dedicated advocate on behalf of our local veteran community and their families,” Hinchey said. “It is my great privilege to nominate a veteran as deserving as Mr. Adrian into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame.”
Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor that can be bestowed on military veterans by the state Senate, Hinchey said.
Adrian is the first Greene County veteran selected for the honor.
“I’m just humbled, I really am,” Adrian said. “I didn’t expect it, and when they told me this and I looked online to see what it was about, it’s an honor.”
Adrian’s list of contributions to the county and to Cairo is long and distinguished. He works on the Hometown Heroes program, putting up banners honoring local veterans. He works on behalf of the American Legion Post with numerous local youth groups including 4-H, Boys State and Boy Scouts — which the post charters — and helps organize Cairo’s annual Memorial Day parade and the Veterans Day ceremony.
He also works on recruiting fellow veterans to the American Legion to show them what the organization has to offer.
Adrian said he couldn’t do any of the work he does with the community without the help of his fellow veterans.
“A good commander can’t do this without his post,” Adrian said. “These guys work hard and we are bringing the post up where it needs to be. We are bringing more members in.”
He feels honored by Hinchey’s selection for the Hall of Fame.
“It’s a nice honor and I didn’t expect it,” Adrian said. “I don’t do it for the glory — I chose to give up my life in 1983 to join the service.”
That was the same year Adrian got married, immediately after graduating high school.
“I got shipped over to Germany and then my wife and I moved to Fort Hood,” he said.
In 1986 he left the service and joined the National Guard, where he served as a cook until 2003, attaining the rank of Battalion Mess Sergeant.
“I had 20 years in and they put a stop-loss on me,” he said.
A stop-loss is an extension of an active military member’s service.
“That came with a promotion to sergeant first-class. I went to Iraq for two years, from 2003-2005,” Adrian said.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks hit Adrian and his family hard, he said.
“My daughter was young and I had to go to New York City and guard the tunnels,” Adrian said. “When I got back, I was getting ready to leave the service but they sent me to Iraq. We were in the heavy part of it, called Balad. We were part of the triangle, right in the middle of everything. I probably cooked over 200,000 meals there. I was out on the road every day delivering food, but we made it home.”
Adrian is currently commander of the American Legion Mohican Post 983 and urges fellow veterans to join the organization.
“Please join and help the community out,” he said. “The more members we get, the more we can keep this post going. A lot of posts are dying — the older members are dying out and the younger ones aren’t stepping up. I’ve got a lot of young guys coming into our post. We step up — if someone asks us to do something, we do it.”
It is that sense of service, both to country and community, that earned Adrian inclusion in the Veterans Hall of Fame.
“While we will never be able to repay Mr. Adrian for his service to our country or for all that he does to uplift our Greene County veterans, inducting this cherished community member into the Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame is one small way we can ensure that his service is forever remembered,” Hinchey said.
Adrian was honorably discharged from the service in 2005 and has served as commander of the American Legion Post for over 10 years. While in the military, he received six Army Achievement Awards, seven Army Commendation Awards, State Defense Awards, civil and federal awards, the Presidential Award and Overseas Awards.