BY DEAN MOSES
Queens is full of heroes, this much we have learned over the past year thanks to frontline workers going to war against COVID-19. However, 75 years ago there was a very different war being waged and a very different Queens hero on the front line.
World War II saw Irving Goldstein travel to France where he not only participated in one of history’s greatest conflicts, but where he had a guiding hand in saving lives and turning the tide of battle.
Goldstein’s first key mission involved dropping paratroopers and reinforcements in Normandy on D-Day. This date, June 6, 1944, is world renowned for the heroics armed forces exhibited, aiding in liberating France from Nazi control and helping end the war.
On the 75th anniversary of that infamous day and with the valor of all those who fought in mind, French Consul General Jérémie Robert held a ceremony for Goldstein in the courtyard of Boulevard ALP Assisted Living Community in Kew Gardens on Oct. 1, pronouncing the veteran a Knight in the National Order of the Legion of Honor. Known in French as Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, it is the greatest distinction the country can bestow, not unlike a knighthood in the United Kingdom.
“We are paying tribute to Mr. Goldstein’s courage during World War II, to his bravery, and to express our gratitude. We owe him our freedom. We will never forget,” said Consul General Jérémie Robert.
The patio outside the care facility was remodeled into a makeshift auditorium where socially distant chairs were filled with prideful fellow residents and family including, sons, daughters and grandchildren, marking the first time they were able to visit the beloved 99-year-old since the start of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.
A sense of awe permeated the area as the medal was brought forth on a velvet pillow and pinned to Goldstein’s chest. The Federation of French War Veterans saluted and displayed their homelands’ colors as a sign of respect and appreciation while one elderly soldier, Daniel Falgerho, tossed aside his cane with an audible clang in order to immortalize the moment with his camera. After the commemoration concluded, Goldstein’s extended family flocked to his side to both celebrate and congratulate their loved one.
“Our countries have always been very friendly and helpful to each other. I got to love the French people and I really appreciate what the consulate and French government has done for me,” said Goldstein.
After the ceremony, the veteran became overwhelmed with emotion. While his family clung to his side and Consul General Jérémie Robert gripped a shoulder in support, Goldstein’s eyes welled with tears and joy before adding: “This medal, along with the remembrance of World War II, will live forever.”