Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 gathered at the park on Friday, June 9, as City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, Borough President Melinda Katz and several other elected officials unveiled plans for the memorial.
“I am just so proud of today, and I’m more proud because I know what we went through to get here. Four-hundred-twenty names are now scheduled to be on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” Katz said. “Those are 420 folks who have not been memorialized in the borough of Queens in a permanent fashion, and they should’ve been a long time ago. [It] should’ve been when they came home, should’ve been a long time ago. And are now going to get some recognition for their families and for their brothers and sisters in arms as folks come here and are able to reflect on the war and able to show the next generation what we should be doing for our veterans.”
The $2.85 million project will transform the northern portion of the park into an expansive memorial with two semi-circular granite walls.
One wall will bear the names of the men from Queens who gave their lives in the war, and a history of the war with a list of key events and dates. The other wall will have the five crests of the military, as well as the Vietnam Service Medal etched on the outside, with the inside having an etching of bamboo, a common element of the war.
Other features of the memorial will be a flag pole, benches, a lawn, planted trees, and a map highlighting important battles in the Vietnam War. The space will be used for small memorial gatherings to honor the heroes, and as a place for residents to reflect on the sacrifices all veterans have made in service of the country.
For over a decade, Chapter 32 has been lobbying to get a memorial in Queens. The initial push was led by Pat Toro, the former president of Chapter 32. After Toro died, Michael O’Kane, current president of Chapter 32, spearheaded the push for the memorial.
Due to O’Kane’s persistence, the memorial project was fully funded by the borough president’s office and the City Council.
“Never again shall one generation of veterans abandon another,” O’Kane said. “That’s the Vietnam Veterans of America’s founding principle, and if the creation of this monument isn’t the absolute embodiment of that, I don’t know what is.”
The plans for the memorial still need to be finalized before work starts in fall 2018. Parks expects the project to be open by fall 2019.