New York National Guard honors President Martin Van Buren in Kinderhook on Monday, Dec. 5

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Brig. Gen. Isabel Rivera Smith, left, and Sgt. Major Jeff Colling, salute after presenting a wreath at the Martin Van Buren gravesite in Kinderhook on Dec. 5, 2021 .

KINDERHOOK, NEW YORK (12/02/2022) (readMedia)-- New York National Guard Brigadier General Denise Donnell, the commander of the New York Air National Guard, will mark the 240th birthday of President Martin Van Buren by laying a wreath sent by President Joe Biden, at Van Buren's grave site in Kinderhook on Monday, Dec. 5 at 11 a.m.

The event is part of an annual ceremony recognizing the eighth president of the United States which includes the National Park Service, town and village officials and the Friends of Lindenwald, the group which supports the National Historic Site.

WHO: Brig. Gen Denise Donnell, commander of the New York Air National Guard, Chief Master Sergeant Jeffrey Trottier, the Command Chief of the 109th Airlift Wing, and Air National Guard Airmen forming an honor cordon and providing a color guard.

WHAT: Annual recognition of former President Martin Van Buren, a Columbia County native who died on July 24, 1862 in Kinderhook, N.Y. He was born on Dec. 5, 1782. Donnell will present a wreath sent by President Joe Biden. Since the Johnson Administration a wreath from the sitting president is laid at the graves of former presidents on their birthdays by military officers. Taps will be played during the wreath laying.

WHEN: 11 a. m Monday, Dec. 5.

WHERE: Kinderhook Cemetery, County Route 21, Kinderhook New York.

Coverage Opportunities:

Images of the wreath laying ceremony, the military color guard, and troops in formation. There will be opportunities to interview ceremony participants.


The United States military honors former presidents by laying wreaths presented by the current president at their gravesites on the anniversary of their birth. This iniative was first directed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in the mid-1960s and has continued since then.

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

Martin Van Buren:

Van Buren was the first president born as an American citizen rather than a subject of the King of England.

A historical marker on Kinderhook's Hudson Street indicates the site of the Van Buren family tavern, where the president-to-be was born in 1782. He's buried in the family plot at the Kinderhook Reformed Cemetery. Van Buren served in the White House from 1837 to 1841.

He is the only president not to have spoken English as his first language, having grown up speaking Dutch, and the first president from New York.

He ran for re-election in 1840 but was defeated by William Henry Harrison. He sought the Democratic nomination for president 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 home town, 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.

The two letters became another way to say something was good if it was OK.

Van Buren also served as a New York State Senator, New York Attorney General, and a United States Senator from New York, Secretary of State and Vice President.

His home, Lindenwald, is a national historic site.

Brig. Gen. Denise Donnell:

Brig. Gen. Denise M. Donnell serves as the Assistant Adjutant General and as the Commander, New York Air National Guard, Latham, N.Y. She is the primary advisor on all Air Guard matters to The Adjutant General.

In this role, Donnell is responsible for establishing policy and monitoring operations of more than 5,800 people assigned to five flying units and four geographically separated support units.

Donnell graduated from Georgetown University in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Foreign Service and earned her commission through the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.

After nine years as a naval aviator, she joined the New York Air National Guard at Stewart Air National Guard Base, Newburgh, N.Y. in 2002. She has command experience at the Squadron, Group, and Wing levels. As Commander, 109th Maintenance Group, she oversaw utilization of the nation's only ski-equipped aircraft in support of the National Science Foundation and was Commander of the 13th Air Expeditionary Group, McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

Donnell is a Command Pilot with over 4,400 flight hours. Prior to her current position, the General was Commander, 105th Airlift Wing, Stewart ANGB, Newburgh, N.Y.