(Photo by Dominick Recckio)

TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—For the first time, Tompkins County will officially celebrate Veterans Week from Nov. 6-13, 2021, emphasized by green lights that can be seen around the county in an effort to highlight veteran suicide prevention.

Both the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County issued proclamations in early November. According to the county, about 4,000 veterans and their families live in Tompkins County. A list of events being held this week to celebrate can be found here.

“There are numerous events taking place annually in and around Tompkins County to honor our Veterans community this time of year,” said Tompkins County Veterans Services Department Director J.R. Clairborne. “Hopefully, this ceremonial expansion of Veterans Day to include those events will help our Veterans population feel more appreciated for the duty and sacrifice they and their families committed to our country.”

Both Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick and Tompkins County Chairwoman Leslyn McBean-Clairborne made proclamations earlier this month. Those were accepted by Clairborne and Cornell University Student Veteran Adviser and Program Manager Mary Fisk. Clairborne is a Veteran of the U.S. Navy. Fisk is a retired First Sergeant of the U.S. Marine Corps.

In its news release about the Nov. 4 Legislature meeting, Tompkins County said “The resolution remembers and honors the courage and service of Veterans. The resolution highlighted that a large portion of Veterans experience stress in transitioning to civilian life and are at high risk of suicide upon return.”

Perhaps one of the most consistently visible elements of the celebration of Veterans Week will be green lights around the community, known as “Operation Green Light” as both governments are encouraging residents to “display a green light during this week or month in a public-facing window or place of businesses.” The purpose is to promote mental health care for veterans and acknowledge their service overseas.

All of the lights on Tompkins County buildings and Ithaca City Hall will be turned green for the length of November, with Cornell joining by turning its McGraw Clock Tower light green on Nov. 11, the actual Veterans Day, and several downtown businesses will be participating as well.

Clairborne and Fisk are organizing events in conjunction with Cayuga Health System’s John Turner, Downtown Ithaca Alliance’s Scott Rougeau, and Cornell University Student Veteran Ambassadors Mark Minton, Christopher Mahn and Matthew Cook.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com