Kew Gardens Hills rally shows support for troops

By Alex Davidson

Tom Henderson, a U.S. Marine and Vietnam War veteran, came out to the Kew Gardens Hills Library Sunday to take part in a rally supporting American troops fighting in Iraq and, most importantly, his son-in-law, Pedro Quintana.

“He’s right in there,” said Henderson, who was joined by his daughter Jennifer whose sister is six-months pregnant with Quintana’s child. “We’re here to show support for him and for the president — we’re there to stop a dictator.”

The Hendersons were joined by a crowd of at least 200 other people, including borough legislators and veterans, who turned out during a rainy and cold afternoon to voice their approval for the U.S.-led conflict. The crowd waved American, Israeli and military flags and yelled out thanks to the armed forces in the Gulf region.

The legislators attending the event, run by City Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), included council members Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), John Liu (D-Flushing) and David Weprin (D-Hollis); state assembly members Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing), Mark Weprin (D-Bayside) and Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing); and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone). U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) also took part in the event.

“We didn’t even have to say please for them to go over and protect us,” said Gennaro, who along with the Jewish group Vaad Harabonim of Queens and the Queens Jewish Community Council organized the rally. “The sons and daughters of Queens are there so that we and the rest of the world can be free.”

Maria Trovato said she came to the rally to support the troops and especially her stepson who is in an Air Force unit stationed in Iraq. She said she keeps in touch with him through e-mails and regularly checks in on her son to make sure he is safe.

“As an American citizen, I support my government in all the ways I can,” Trovato said. “We are (in Iraq) because we belong there.”

Pat Toro, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Queens Chapter 32, said he and other members of his organization participated in the rally because they wanted to ensure troops returning from the conflict were not mistreated. He said he wants to create a positive environment for the veterans and make sure they know there is support for the war in Iraq.

“We know what it’s like to have the protesting — you have to support the troops,” said Toro, who believes anti-war protesters are detrimental to the soldiers’ morale. “The fact that (the protesters) are allowed to say what they say is what we fought for.”

Other borough legislators said they were at the rally as a show of solidarity with the American troops. McLaughlin, speaking to the crowd as cars passed by and honked in support of the gathering, said he came to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with soldiers in the Persian Gulf.

Pearl Gedanke, a Jewish immigrant from Germany and borough resident, echoed McLaughlin’s comments.

“I’m all for the war and happy to be here,” she said. “If the president said this will do good for the country, we should follow him because he’s the commander-in-chief.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 156

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