HELL’S KITCHEN — Mayor Bill de Blasio threw a wreath into the Hudson River in honor of the nation's fallen soldiers on Memorial Day — even as veterans groups criticized him for not doing enough for their cause.
"We owe our veterans the respect of saying, 'whatever your challenge is, it is all of our problem now,'" de Blasio said at a Memorial Day ceremony on the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, flanked by veterans, their families and tourists.
"We won't stigmatize it," added de Blasio, who said the administration has been focusing on a plan to help its vulnerable vets, especially those with employment programs for veterans and mental health services. He said the city is on track to end veteran homelessness by the end of the year.
De Blasio's efforts have been criticized by some veterans groups whose leadership said the mayor failed to include them in ongoing planning work to help veterans and decried his recent round of meetings with vets as a "photo-op."
Other critics have said the mayor's office hasn't sufficiently funded the Mayor's Office of Veterans' Affairs (MOVA), while elected officials are reportedly pushing to create a city agency that would replace MOVA.
The mayor's office said last week that it was committed to veterans issues.
U.S. Marine Corps General John F. Kelly, who lost a son in Afghanistan, joined de Blasio on stage at Monday's wreath-tossing ceremony.
He said he hoped Memorial Day could serve as a somber reminder of the toll of war.
“Was it worth his life?” Kelly said. “It's not for me to say.”
Kelly added that the families of the fallen don’t need a reminder of their loss.
"They remember all day," he said.