The United Veterans & Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth, sponsored by Maspeth Federal Savings Bank, held four wreath-laying ceremonies on May 29 to honor fallen soldiers.
The torrential downpours and cold temperatures did not deter military veterans, community members, and elected officials from paying respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country.
The Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial at 79th Street and Grand Avenue in Elmhurst Park was the first of the four sites where community members paid tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives during the Vietnam War.
Maspeth Federal Savings President Kenneth Rudzewick, who served as the ceremonial coordinator, opened the ceremony at the Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the first memorial in the borough honoring the soldiers killed or injured in Vietnam. Those who didn’t return are listed as “Missing in Action.”
City Councilman Robert Holden recalled that the memorial was built because of the efforts led by Vietnam veteran Pat Toro and Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 32, who had the full support of then-Borough President Melinda Katz.
Pointing to the memorial, Holden said to look at the names and ages of the fallen.
“Seventeen, 18, 19 years old — most of them very, very young,” he said. “They didn’t live their lives yet. It’s very important that we remember them.”
Vietnam veteran Tom Bullaro of VVA Chapter 32 said that it was important to remember every name etched into the memorial wall before reading the Jewish poem “We remember them” by Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer, which, in part, reads, “As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as we remember them.”
Assemblyman Brian Barnwell bemoaned that many of his generation and younger were seemingly unaware of the sacrifices generations before them made while fighting for their country.
However, Barnwell promised, “I will do everything I can for as long as I live to make sure that people remember the sacrifice.”
Despite the relentless downpour, veterans, community members, and elected officials proceeded to the second of their four stops, Garlinge Memorial Triangle, where they honored the soldiers from Maspeth who died during World War I.
The third stop was Maspeth Memorial Square across from Maspeth Federal Savings, honoring Maspeth residents killed in combat and the 19 Maspeth firefighters from FDNY Squad 288 and Hazmat 1, who were killed during the 9/11 attack in 2000.
The Memorial Day remembrance concluded with a wreath-laying ceremony at the American Legion Memorial at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Maspeth.