It took more than a decade of advocacy from veterans and more than $2.8 million in funding from Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, but they will all stand together Friday morning for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Elmhurst Park.
Built on the northwest corner of the park near the intersection of Grand Avenue and 79th Street, the first-of-its-kind boroughwide memorial in Queens features the names of 371 of the borough’s service members who died during the Vietnam War or served and are classified as “missing in action.” The memorial also recognizes borough veterans who have since lost their lives as a result of their service during the conflict.
Construction of the memorial has long been sought by many of the nearly 59,000 veterans who call Queens home, more than any other borough, led by late former Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 President Pat Toro.
Prior to his passing in 2014 from cancer related to the chemical Agent Orange, the Marine Corps veteran was a staunch advocate for a boroughwide memorial to recognize the sacrifices made by hundreds of Queens residents and their families during the Vietnam War.
“It’s been more than a decade since the late Pat Toro first dreamed up the idea of a boroughwide memorial honoring the valor and selflessness of Queens service members who never returned home from the Vietnam War,” Katz said. “Thanks to the persistence and dedication of so many of his fellow Queens Vietnam Veterans, Pat’s dream has become a reality. Please join us in Elmhurst Park as a grateful borough pays tribute to the heroic men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.”
Following Toro’s lead, current Chapter 32 President Manual Edenhofer, former group president Michael O’Kane and Vietnam Veterans of America National President John Rowan were instrumental in continuing to seek the funding needed to design and build the memorial. All three are expected to attend the 10:00 a.m. ceremony as is NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver.
“The new Queens Veterans Memorial pays tribute to local heroes and publicly honors their sacrifice,” Silver said. “We look forward to joining Borough President Katz and local veterans this week at the official ribbon cutting to celebrate this new greenspace.”