Ozone-Howard Little League plans memorial for vets

By Sarina Trangle

While elected officials push for a parade to welcome home Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the Ozone-Howard Little League has taken steps to honor the homebound with a memorial.

The service records of several neighborhood residents who died fighting abroad or came back with injuries compelled the youth baseball organization to take action, said Ralph Wallace, vice president of the league.

The Ozone-Howard Little League decided to install a flagpole complete with a commemorative plaque near its fields along Centerville Street by 149th Avenue.

“There’s a lot of kids in the neighborhood that are coming back. They’re injured. They can’t get jobs. We feel they’re under-appreciated,” Wallace said. “We’re playing baseball here because these kids are fighting for us.”

A 50-foot-tall pole capped with a replica of an eagle currently hoists an American flag by the league’s headquarters.

And Wallace said the Little League plans to unveil a bronze plaque during an April 26 event, which will include breakfast at 8:30 a.m. for veterans and a memorial dedication ceremony at 10 a.m.

Memorial construction began in October, with workers installing a flagpole donated from Howard Beach Memorial Services. The group gives flagpoles to civic groups and other organizations to promote showcasing of the country’s stars and stripes.

Brickwork on the memorial began after winter. A footing designed to anchor the flagpole has since been built up into a platform of sand-colored bricks.

The 36-by-30-inch plaque slated to be installed later this month includes 3-D images of soldiers fighting through various wars and members of the armed forces raising the flag.

It also contains a message from the Ozone-Howard Little League to veterans of all conflicts.

“To the mothers, fathers and families whose sons and daughters have made the supreme sacrifice, to those veterans who will suffer the wounds and ravages of war and to those missing and not yet home, in order that we may continue to live in freedom in the greatest nation on earth, the United States of America, … may their sacrifices never be forgotten,” the 200-pound tablet reads.

A wrought-iron fence will also be erected around the memorial, Wallace said.

“It’s the effect we are trying to go for. It’s going to be here long after us,” he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged the U.S. Department of Defense this weekend to collaborate with the city on planning a parade for veterans of the post-Sept. 11 wars along the historic Canyon of Heroes route, where prior generations returning from wars have marched in lower Manhattan.

The City Council Committee on Veterans is weighing a resolution calling for a ticker-tape parade to honor veterans of the Iraq conflict, which ended in 2011, and the war in Afghanistan, which is expected to conclude by the end of 2014.

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), chairman of the committee and co-sponsor of the resolution, said the Committee on Veterans plans to hold a hearing on the resolution in May.

“I can think of no better way to honor our veterans and returning service members who so gallantly served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Ulrich said in a statement. “This is a longstanding New York City tradition and I will work tirelessly with the mayor and our partners in the federal government to see this parade to fruition.”

All veterans are welcome to attend the Ozone-Howard Little League’s April 26 event. Should it rain, the event will be held April 27. For more information, call 718-835-8599.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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