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Queens Vietnam Vets organize blood drive for Pat Toro

By Sarina Trangle

After years of advocating for fellow veterans, Pat Toro is turning to the troops for support in fighting off an illness stemming from Agent Orange.

Pastor “Pat” Toro Jr., former president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 in Queens, was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a precursor to leukemia, six months ago.

His daughter, JoAnn Marie Toro, said the syndrome likely was caused by Agent Orange, a herbicide the military sprayed on vegetation during the Vietnam War that has been linked to cancers, birth defects and other diseases.

Despite months of treatment and chemotherapy, Toro still currently requires about three blood transfusions a week, his daughter said.

VVA Chapter 32 President Paulie Narson said the group has organized a blood drive in Toro’s name at its Whitestone headquarters, at 19-12 149th St., on April 15 from noon to 5 p.m. All donations will be sent to Orange Regional Medical Center upstate, where Toro is being treated. In exchange, the hospital will supply Toro with the blood he needs.

“He’s going through a lot of blood. He went through 20 pints in six weeks,” Narson said. “I’m hoping for more, but if we get 40 donors we’ll be happy. Forty will make it all possible.”

Toro, 65, was deployed to Da Nang, Vietnam, for 13 months during his four years with the U.S. Marine Crops. He went on to work for the city Police Department and the Port Authority police department, before retiring in 1991.

The longtime Forest Hills resident led VVA Chapter 32 from 2001-10. He became known for helping to bring a mobile version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., to the borough and spearheading an initiative to bury indigent veterans with all the trappings of any military ceremony, Narson said.

“We bury indigent veterans with honor and dignity along with Hess-Miller Funeral Home in Middle Village. They’re our partner,” said Narson, who leads Chapter 32, a boroughwide organization that has about 256 members.

Toro relocated upstate in recent years, but remained involved in veterans affairs as the southern district director and government affairs chairman for the VVA New York State Council and director-at-large to the VVA National Board of Directors and its Government Affairs, Minority Affairs and Veterans Benefits committees.

Toro, a decorated war veteran, was inducted into the state Senate Veterans Hall of Fame in 2006.

“They’ve been asking him and asking him if they could do something for him,” JoAnn Marie Toro said of Chapter 32. “He is sort of humble and he didn’t want to ask anybody for anything …. Once he realized how frequently he would need transfusions and that they’re always in need of blood, he spoke to the hospital and decided to let the chapter go ahead and have a blood drive.”

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

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