by Staff Sgt. Ryan Campbell
107th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
1/8/2016 - NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. -- On
a frosty winter's morning, the 107th Airlift Wing here honored the
nation's 13th president with a wreath laying ceremony at his grave at
Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, Jan. 7, 2015.
Col. Michael W. Bank Jr, vice commander of the 107th AW, laid the wreath
on behalf of President Obama in front of dignitaries and admirers of
President Millard Fillmore. The ceremony, which is in its 51st year, is
held by the University at Buffalo to mark the western New York native's
"The Air Force commemorates the Millard Fillmore memorial, and they have
for many years," said Bank. "It's typically an Air Force
representative. The Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense
reaches out to us and they ask us if we would continue to present the
The wreath, which is adorned with red, white and blue flowers, is
presented by the White House on behalf of the president, said Bank.
Fixed to the top of the wreath is a bow in our nations colors with a
card attached that simply reads "The President."
"Not only was he the 13th president of the United States," said Bank,
"he served the state of New York in a legal capacity and as a
Fillmore was one of the founders of the University at Buffalo, of which
he was the first chancellor, holding the position while he was vice
president in 1849, and president from 1850 to 1853. He also helped to
found the Buffalo Historical Society which today includes the Buffalo
History Museum and Tifft Nature Preserve, in 1862.
When the Civil War broke out, Fillmore was the commander of the Union
Continentals which was a militia of men from upstate New York. They were
dedicated to the defense of Buffalo should the Confederate Army attack,
which ultimately did not. Fillmore remained active with them after the
war, and participated in guarding President Abraham Lincoln's funeral
train when it came through Buffalo.
"We have a western New Yorker who served his nation, served his state,
served his community till the day he died," said Bank. "That legacy
still continues. It's our duty as Guardsmen who serve the nation, the
state and the community in much of the same way to be able to
commemorate this gentleman and what he's done for us."
That legacy began in 1828 when Fillmore was elected to the New York
State Assembly. After serving one term, he was elected a representative
in 1832. Serving in Congress until 1843, he was unsuccessful in running
for governor, though he was elected as comptroller in 1848 and served
When Zachary Taylor took office as president in 1849, Fillmore joined
him as his vice president. A year later, Taylor died suddenly making
Fillmore the president. Not able to secure the Whig Party nomination for
the 1852 election, Fillmore left the White House as the last Whig
president ever elected, and returned to Buffalo and lived out the rest
of his life in service to the community until his death on March 8,