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

Brig. Gen. Isabel Rivera Smith presents wreath from President Joe Biden at Van Buren's grave at 11 a.m.

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Brig. Gen. Michael Bank and Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Trottier salute the resting place of former President Martin Van Buren after placing a presidential wreath on Dec. 5, 2020.

KINDERHOOK, NEW YORK (12/03/2021) (readMedia)-- New York Army National Guard Brigadier General Isabel Rivera Smith, the Director of Joint Staff for the New York National Guard, will mark the 239th birthday of President Martin Van Buren by laying a wreath sent by President Joe Biden, at Van Buren's grave site in Kinderhook on Sunday, 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. Isabel Rivera Smith, the New York National Guard director of joint staff, and New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Major David Piwowarski, and a New York Army National Guard 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. Smith present a wreath sent by President Joe Biden Traditionally a wreath from the sitting president is laid at the graves of former presidents on their birthdays by military officers.

WHEN: 11 a. m Sunday, 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. 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. Isabel Rivera Smith:

Smith assumed her duties as the Director of Joint Staff for the New York National Guard on January 21, 2021. She is responsible for coordinating operations and activities involving both the New York Army and Air National Guard, as well as the New York Naval Militia and New York Guard. She is also responsible for organizing the responses to weather emergencies as well as the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith's military career began in 1985 when she enlisted in the Army 1985, serving in the Air Defense Artillery. She joined the Army National Guard in 1988 and became an officer in 1995.