The Montgomery County Clerk’s Office has a table full of new gadgets.
Last year the county Board of Supervisors approved roughly $15,000 for an industrial camera and plastic ID printer along with the necessary computer and software to run them. It doesn’t look like much, but according to County Clerk Helen Bartone, it’s Montgomery County’s way of honoring veterans.
The equipment, which is dedicated to printing pistol permits and veteran identification cards, was up and running Monday, and drawing good reviews from vets.
“The hardest part is getting lined up in front of the camera,” said Keith Schedlbauer of Hagaman.
He was one of the first to get his veteran ID card, taking a seat before the camera just an hour after the service opened to the public. The staff is still working out the kinks. Deputy Clerk Lori Semkiw had him shift his seat a few times to get the picture right.
The veteran IDs are part of a countywide program called Return the FAVOR — Finding and Assisting Veterans of Record. Bartone heard about the program at a New York State Association of County Clerks conference last summer and decided to bring it to Montgomery County.
“Return the FAVOR is a county clerk initiative to thank veterans for their service and sacrifice,” she said.
So far, more than 50 local businesses are offering discounts to veterans with the new ID card. Among them are restaurants such as Valentino’s and Subway, offering 15 and 10 percent off meals, respectively, and Rolling Hills Country Club and the Amsterdam YMCA.
Some of the discounts are fairly substantial, and more business are getting involved with the program every day.
However, Schedlbauer, who served four years in the Navy during the Vietnam era, didn’t get the card to save a few dollars.
“I think for a long time, vets have been taken for granted,” he said. “Now it’s at least good to know they’re thinking about us enough to get us IDs.”
Some businesses, such as Lowes and Home Depot, always offered veteran discounts, but many who don’t have specific IDs couldn’t claim them.
“If you only serve a few years, you just get discharge papers,” said David Gizara of Hagaman. “This gives every veteran identification.”
Gizara served 34 years in the Air Force, and when he retired, the military gave him a laminated picture ID to prove he’s a veteran. As for the Return the FAVOR program, “I think it’s great,” he said, “but it’s long overdue.”
The program has been around for several years, and similar programs are already in place in Schenectady, Saratoga, Albany and Warren counties, but it wasn’t until County Court Judge Felix Catena asked the clerk’s office to take over the pistol permit system that the board agreed to allocate the necessary funds.
“The pistol permit holders have been lobbying us to get plastic cards for years,” Bartone said. “The paper ones they used to carry would get so crumpled they had to get them replaced all the time.”
Those looking for a pistol permit still have to apply with the Sheriff’s Office, but the system is more streamlined. As current permit holders update their paper licences to plastic, their information goes into a database, making it easier for the county to keep track.
Veterans need only present their original DD-214 discharge papers to get an ID.
Appointments are required for pistol permits and encouraged for veteran ID cards.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 853-8119.