By Naeisha Rose
Dozens of people gathered last Friday night for National POW/MIA Recognition Day at 68th Street and Borden Avenue in Maspeth.
In attendance with the Vietnam veterans, family members and the Coastal Patrol Cadet Core from Ridgewood was Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).
“I want to thank the Chapter 32 veterans for always remembering the veterans that were wounded in war and missing. I couldn’t imagine the pain, devastation that so many family endure not having a father, brother, son, a family member at the table because of the sacrifices the individual made,” she said.
Directly in front of Crowley was a symbolic empty chair draped in a POW/MIA flag and a table that had a vase tied with a yellow ribbon and a red rose in it. The table also had a plate with a slice of lemon sprinkled with salt.
These items not only symbolized the missing veterans, but the “tears of those who wait faithfully for their return,” Michael O’Kane said.
“Nobody would say this, but everyday we were all afraid about being taken prisoner,” said O’Kane, a Vietnam veteran who served from 1966-1970 in the U.S. Navy. “It was more horrendous to us than the idea of a violent, horrible sudden death. These guys knew what it was like to be taken prisoner and we want to know where they are, and we want to know what happened to them. Everyday they are recovering more and more remains, and thanks to DNA testing they can identify them.”ja
He added, “It’s very important to us to know where they are and to have them accounted for.”
Arriving late to the event after getting stuck on the BQE was former city Comptroller John Liu, who made time to speak with the veterans who were still present.
“Chapter 32 has played such an important part not just for veterans, but the Queens community as a whole,” Liu said. “We are still working on the monument to preserve the memory of the hundreds of Queens’ residents that made the ultimate sacrifice in the Vietnam War.”
This commemoration of POW/MIA Day, which is the third Friday of every September, is going to go on in perpetuity so that the young people don’t forget,” said Liu.
The monument for the Vietnam War veterans who were prisoners of war and missing in action will be erected at Elmhurst Park on 57th Avenue and Grand Avenue, the former home of the Elmhurst gas tanks.
“We are going to get a piece of land to the east of the park near the Verizon garage,” said O’Kane, the president of Chapter 32.
“They gave us a completion date for the monument. It is going to be done in 2019,” he said. “The Parks Department has approached several designers and we are consulting them now.”