Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz today announced the appointment of Francis J. McLaughlin as Erie County's new Director of Veteran's Services. An experienced public servant and a Vietnam War veteran, McLaughlin is being lauded as a perfect fit for the job in county headquarters.
Erie County Veteran's Services is the go-to office for military veterans seeking resolution of a wide range of problems. It is a small but busy and important unit of county government.
McLaughlin served in the United States Air Force from 1969 to 1972. He earned the rank of Sgt./E-4 as an aircraft mechanic repairing B-52 bombers flying missions over Vietnam and KC-135 refuel tankers. During his military service he served at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY, U-Tapao AFB in Thailand and Andersen AFB on the island of Guam.
"It is a profound honor and privilege to have the opportunity to serve Erie County's veterans and their families as Director of the Erie County Veterans Service Agency," McLauglin said. "I would like to thank the County Executive and his administration for their support."
An Erie Community College graduate, McLaughlin served as an assistant deputy director in the New York State Division of Veteran's Affairs from 2008-2011, with wide experience in planning, supervising, and coordinating the State's Veterans' Service programs to ensure uniformity in service delivery. He also worked for more than 25 years at the New York State Department of Labor, where he helped veterans meet their employment and training needs.
With that kind of pedigree, there are high hopes McLaughlin will improve veterans services in the area and even elevate the profile of Erie County veterans.
"I am confident that his experience in veterans' affairs with New York State will be a valuable asset in helping our veterans navigate bureaucratic red tape to obtain the services and benefits they deserve," said Poloncarz. "Fran understands what his colleagues need and will advocate tirelessly on their behalf."
McLaughlin served at Tapao and Anderson bases when both were front-line Strategic Air Command facilities key to Vietnam War combat action. The bombing missions over North Vietnam that dominated the news back home were comprised of thousands upon thousands of B52 sorties from these two vital US bases. Tapao was known for enduring a number of mortar attacks and many incidents of sabotage, including a 1972 sapper attack intended to blow up the B52s.
"In a time when there's so much complaining about patronage, right or wrong, this appointment defies the narrative," said one local Republican veteran. "It would have been really easy for Poloncarz to tap a more political candidate for the position, but McLaughlin is the real deal. Erie County veterans are the real winners here."