An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article View
NEWS | Dec. 6, 2023

New York Army Guard Salutes Former President Van Buren

By Eric Durr, New York National Guard

KINDERHOOK, N.Y. - New York Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Michel Natali commemorated the 241st birthday of former President Martin Van Buren Dec. 5 by laying a wreath from the White House at the eighth president’s grave.

The presentation of the wreath from President Joseph Biden marked the climax of a ceremony that featured wreath presentations from local officials, volunteer groups and the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site.

The New York Army National Guard also provided a color guard and honor cordon for the ceremony, along with a bugler to sound taps and a military chaplain to open and close the ceremony.

New York Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Alison Ogden, a member of Joint Force Headquarters who participated in the honor cordon, said she was proud to participate in the ceremony for the second time.

 ”It is good for the military to be part of local events like this one,” Ogden said.

Natali, the assistant adjutant, Army, for the New York National Guard, praised Van Buren, who served from 1836-1840, for his efforts to keep the United States from going to war with Great Britain over border disputes in Maine and Americans’ support for a rebellion in Canada. Van Buren also refused to support the annexation of Texas as a state to avoid war with Mexico, Natali noted.

Since 1967, the current occupant of the White House has sent wreaths to be presented at the gravesites of former presidents on their birthdays, Natali said.

The ceremony at the Kinderhook Reformed Cemetery, hosted by Kinderhook Mayor Michael Abrams, included remarks by Megan O’Malley, the superintendent of the Martin Van Buren Historic Site, and a presentation by children from Ichabod Crane Primary School.

Natali said it was important to hold events like this to tie the legacy of the past to the present.

Jane Miller, the president of the Friends of Lindenwald, a volunteer group that supports the National Historic Site, said she appreciated the National Guard participating in the annual tradition in Kinderhook.

“We need to remember that our nation was shaped by people like Martin Van Buren,” Miller said.

He was the son of a Dutch tavern owner who worked and studied hard to become a lawyer and important political leader, she said.

Van Buren was the first president born as an American citizen rather than a subject of the King of England. He was also the only president not to have spoken English as his first language, having grown up speaking Dutch, and the first president from New York.

Before running for president in 1836, Van Buren, a lawyer, served as a New York state senator, attorney general, and governor of New York. He was secretary of state for President Andrew Jackson and vice president during Jackson's second term.

Shortly after taking office in 1837, an economic downturn known as the Panic of 1837 hit. Businesses closed, people lost their jobs, and the agricultural economy took a hit.

Van Buren ran for re-election in 1840 but was defeated by William Henry Harrison. He sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1844 but lost to James K. Polk.

In 1848, he was the unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Free-Soil Party, a group opposing an extension of slavery. That defeat marked the end of his political career.

Van Buren, known as Old Kinderhook because of his hometown, supposedly gave the English language the term OK. During his run for office, OK clubs were organized to support him. He also initialed papers with the letters OK to indicate he approved.

Van Buren died in 1862 during the Civil War.

The New York Army and Air National Guard headquarters traditionally conduct the wreath presentations at the grave of former President Chester A. Arthur in Menands and Van Buren in Kinderhook. The New York Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing in Niagara Falls honors former President Millard Fillmore.



Related Articles
New York Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Albert Thiem, left, who also served as a sergeant and a lieutenant colonel, receives a retirement gift from Maj. Gen. Thomas Spenser during a ceremony at New York National Guard headquarters in Latham, N.Y., Jan. 26, 2024.
NY Guardsman Ends Career as NCO, Officer and Warrant Officer
By Eric Durr, | Jan. 30, 2024
LATHAM, N.Y. – A New York National Guard Soldier who served as a sergeant, a lieutenant colonel and a chief warrant officer 4 ended his 42-year military career Jan. 26 during a retirement ceremony at New York National Guard...

Staff Sgt. Nathan Wojtkowiak, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Pawlukovich and Staff Sgt. Jacob Qualiana, assigned to the 107th Attack Wing, pause from keeping entrances clear at Erie Community South Campus warming station in Orchard Park, New York, Jan. 15, 2024. Seasonally activated warming stations established around Western New York provide stranded and homeless civilians refuge from extreme winter conditions.
New York National Guard Responds to Winter Storm in Western New York
By 1st Lt. Jason Carr, | Jan. 22, 2024
BUFFALO, N.Y. – The New York National Guard activated 132 Soldiers and Airmen to help local officials deal with a winter storm that hit Buffalo the weekend of Jan. 13-15.The storm dumped 17 inches of snow on the region, with...

New York National Guard honor guard Soldiers receive the remains of 1st Lt. John Thomas, a World War II Army Air Forces pilot killed in 1943, at the Rose Cemetery in North Rose, New York,  May 20, 2023. This was one of 7,100 military funerals the New York Army National Guard's honor guard teams expected to conduct by the end of 2023.
New York National Guard Conducts Over 9,000 Military Funerals
By Eric Durr, | Dec. 26, 2023
LATHAM, New York - New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen expect to provide military funeral honors for the families of over 9,000 veterans by the end of 2023.Federal law requires the military to provide honors at the...