KINDERHOOK, NY (12/05/2018) As the United States mourned the death of President George H.W. Bush, the 41st president on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018; the New York National Guard commemorated the country's eighth president, Martin Van Buren.
New York Army National Guard Brig. General John Andonie, the Chief of Staff of the New York Army National Guard, marked Van Buren's birthday in Kinderhook, the village where he was born in 1782 and where he died in 1862, by laying a wreath from President Donald Trump at his gravesite.
The United States military pays tribute to past presidents by placing a wreath from the current occupant of the White House on the graves of past presidents on their birthdays.
The New York Army and Air National Guard headquarters in Latham. N.Y. conducts the wreath laying at the grave of Van Buren in Kinderhook Reformed Church Cemetery and at the grave of President Chester Arthur in Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands, N.Y.
The ceremonies feature a color guard and honor cordon as well as the playing of Taps.
The ceremony held Wednesday to commemorate Van Buren was different because it was held at the same time the nation was commemorating the recent death of a president, Andonie noted.
"It is a really special day in that regard,' Andonie said.
The military wreath laying was the climax of a ceremony which included wreath tributes from the Town of Kinderhook, the Village of Kinderhook, the National Park Service, which manages the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, and the Friends of Lindenwald, a volunteer group which supports the park service.
Fourth grade students from Ichabod Crane Middle School took turns highlighting key points in Van Buren's life.
In his remarks Andonie noted that Van Buren lived during "an incredible period in American history." Van Buren was born at the end of the Revolutionary War, saw the country expand to the Pacific Coast, and dried during the Civil War, Andonie said.
The placing of the Presidential Wreath was the climax of the ceremony. Taps sounded as Andonie, and New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Major David Piwowarski presented arms, joined by the Color Guard and Soldiers in the Honor Cordon.
Van Buren, who served in the White House from 1837 to 1841 was born on Dec. 5, 1782 and was the first president who was not originally a subject of the British Crown because he was born after the Declaration of Independence was signed.
He is the only president not to have spoken English as his first language, having grown up speaking Dutch, and was the first president from New York.
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.
Van Buren 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.
Van Buren, a lawyer, made his original mark in politics in in New York state government. After being elected to the New York State Senate in 1812 he became the leader of a faction in the Democrat-Republican Party called the Bucktails. He eventually established a political machine known as the Albany Regency which dominated New York politics in the 1820s.
Van Buren is credited with establishing the two-party system in the United States in which parties unit around an ideology instead of a leader or a geographical faction.
Along with serving as a New York State Senator, Van Buren also served as New York Attorney General, briefly as Governor of New York, a United States Senator, and as Secretary of State, Ambassador to Great Britain, and Vice President for President Andrew Jackson.
Van Buren was a key advisor to Jackson throughout Jackson's eight years as president.
In 1848 Van Buren, who had always opposed slavery, ran as the candidate of the Free-Soil Party, a group opposing an extension of slavery. He was defeated and ended his political career and retired to his farm outside Kinderhook.
Van Buren, known as Old Kinderhook because of his home town, 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.
His home, Lindenwald, is a national historic site