Profiles of the Extraordinary – Harvey Martel

It’s amazing who you might meet in roundabout fashion. That’s how I met a “Veteran Volunteer.” Please allow me to walk you through that journey.

My first major assignment for this semester’s journalism class started with a visit to The College of Saint Rose archives. We looked through archive copies of student newspapers to come up with ideas for a present-day story. I lucked out. The archivist provided the class with the story of a former Saint Rose professor who had served in the Army during World War II. We found an archive story that wished him luck before leaving for war, and one that welcomed him back to the college after the war’s conclusion.

I was intrigued with the idea of looking for a local veteran to learn about his or her experiences. It was easier said than done. But with the help of an American Legion post member, I learned about a panel discussion of veterans legal issues at Albany Law School. It was there that I met a number of a great veterans. One of them was Harvey Martel.

The following is a draft of the story that I wrote profiling Harvey. It has not yet been published outside of this blog:

When veterans transition to civilian life, they can face emotional, medical, legal and financial challenges that could take decades to resolve. Harvey Martel, a Vietnam War veteran, helps other veterans and their families work through the legal issues and the bureaucratic complexities of the Veterans Affairs system.

Martel grew up on Elberon Place in the Pine Hills. He enlisted in the Army in 1964. Martel retired as a master sergeant after serving for 22 years, including tours in Germany, Vietnam and South Korea. Currently, he serves as the Albany County Commander for the American Legion.

Helping veterans and their families work through the claims process, especially for those claims that have been denied, is an important part of his role as Service Officer at the Legion’s Joseph E. Zaloga Post 1520.  “The average Joe doesn’t know what’s going on with claims,” said Martel. For example, Martel helped a World War II veteran win approval for a previously denied service-related injury that occurred in 1946. Martel and the post recently helped the family of a deceased veteran obtain a grave marker for his burial site.

It is Martel’s concern for veterans that brought him to a panel discussion of veterans’ legal issues at Albany Law School on Monday, Feb. 28. At least 60 people, including veterans and law students, attended the discussion said Lauren Palmer, one of the event’s student organizers. The event provided an opportunity for veterans to ask questions and meet panelists, most of whom were local attorneys with legal expertise in veterans’ issues. The New York State Division of Veterans Affairs was also represented on the panel. Additionally, the discussion served as an announcement of a pro bono program at the school to provide legal support to veterans.

Stephen Younger, president of the New York State Bar Association, provided the opening remarks at the panel discussion. In those remarks he spoke about higher rates of unemployment, homelessness, legal troubles, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, serious injuries and other medical problems as challenges faced by veterans. It is a “tough transition to civilian life,” said Younger.

It is a perspective shared by Martel. Albany Law School’s pro bono program will be beneficial to veterans in need of help said Martel. He provided his contact information to the event organizers and plans to use his contacts within the Legion and other veterans groups to spread the word about the pro bono program and future events at Albany Law School. He also plans to ask Albany Law School to get involved in other veterans events in Albany County. “We want the community to know these things are available to veterans,” said Martel.

It’s good to know that extraordinary veterans like Harvey are out there looking after other vets. It’s been an honor to get to know him.

Profiles of the Extraordinary is a category within the This Ordinary Citizen blog.  It features Ordinary Citizens who show us what it means to be Extraordinary.  If you know someone who should be profiled, contact the author.

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