A downstate congressman has taken over a project close to the heart of Hornell.
Congressman Joseph Crowley, D-7, of the Bronx recently agreed to sponsor federal legislation to have the Hornell Post Office named after fallen U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Zachary Smith.
Former 29th District Rep. Eric Massa announced in early February that he was pursuing the bill, but progress has slowed since Massa resigned, leaving many issues up in the air.
“Joe’s a great member of the delegation and I’m thrilled he agreed to do it,” said Joseph Racalto, chief of staff for the 29th District office. “And he agreed to do it enthusiastically. It’s not like we were twisting his arm ... It’s a tricky process having another member of Congress take over a bill. I believe the next step is he has to announce he is taking over sponsorship of the bill to the House floor.”
Crowley said he wanted to support the bill because of Smith’s heroism and a certain phone call.
“I wanted to make sure that Zachary Smith, a much-admired member of the Hornell community, is honored for his heroism and the ultimate sacrifice he made in service of the United States,” said Crowley in an e-mail. “I also wanted to honor Zachary’s family, and after my conversation with his father, felt this was just the right thing to do.
“Zachary was a much-loved athlete, Marine, son, brother and husband. I believe it is incumbent on all Americans to honor our fallen heroes, especially someone as impressive as Zachary,” said Crowley.
Racalto said he has been in contact with the Smith family to make sure they knew the bill wasn’t on the back burner.
“This has been one of our priorities,” said Racalto.
The chief of staff said that all 28 members of the state’s delegation support the bill and he expects no complications with getting it approved.
Crowley said that when Congress convenes again, he’ll be ready to push forward.
“After we seek co-sponsors and the legislation is introduced, it will need to be considered and approved by the entire Congress. I can't predict a time frame, but it's important that we make every effort to make this happen,” he said.
Smith, 19, a 2008 Hornell High School graduate, was killed Jan. 24 by an explosive device during a battle with militants on one of his first days of patrol. He died supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
According to the Department of Defense, Smith was assigned to the Marine’s 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and was deployed from Camp Lejeune, N.C. Smith was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart on behalf of President Barack Obama and the Marine Corps.