Local elected officials joined members of Community Board 9 for a surprise tribute to honor and recognize three veterans on the board on Thursday, Nov. 10.
Community Board 9 District Manager James McClelland and board members Joe Iaboni and J. Richard Smith were presented with citations from Councilwoman Joann Ariola, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., who were in attendance for the tribute. Representatives for Congressman Gregory Meeks, Assemblyman David Weprin and Councilwoman Lynn Schulman also presented citations to the honorees.
The ceremony began with the singing of the national anthem and ended with a salute to the three veterans.
“I am so proud to see our district manager and board members on the eve of Veterans Day being honored for their service,” said Community Board 9 Chair Sherry Algredo. “I believed in honoring our brave heroes while they are alive and letting them know how much they are valued and appreciated. It is because of their sacrifice that we are able to say ‘Land of the free and home of the brave.’”
McClelland, who served in the U.S. Army from 1990 to 1992, was hired as the district manager of Community Board 9 in 2018. While he serves in this capacity, he also has a passion for raising awareness for issues such as his recent participation in the Tunnel to Towers 5K run and Walk NYC in September. McClelland is president of Friends of the Queen’s Vietnam War Memorial and has also served in the political field as chief of staff to several elected officials, a senior adviser and veterans affairs liaison for a New York state senator.
Iaboni has served in the Armed Forces and has been president of the Jamaica Rotary Foundation for 20 years, where he seeks to honor those in the capacity of police officers for their service of honor.
Smith, who also served in the Armed Forces, is the treasurer of American Legion Post No. 118 and continues to keep the Veterans’ spirits alive. Smith, who was the former chair of the board, now serves as the chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, and is the recording secretary for the 102nd Precinct Community Council.
Ariola, Rajkumar and Addabbo praised the men for their service to the country and community.
“I am lucky to call these men my friends,” Ariola said. “We often forget that the freedoms we all enjoy today were fought for by warriors like these three. We owe them — and all of our nation’s veterans — a deep debt. Veterans Day gives us an opportunity to express our gratitude to these heroes, but we should remember that our thanks should not only be relegated to Nov. 11. We should show our appreciation today and every day, to make sure that those who were willing to put their lives on the line for us are honored and their sacrifices are not forgotten.”
Both Rajkumar and Addabbo noted the work they’re doing to provide veterans with the resources they need.
“I was proud to honor three heroes of our community right here in our midst — veterans who put everything on the line for our country. There are no qualities I respect more than the bravery, courage and dedication to our country exemplified by our veterans,” Rajkuamr said.
Rajkumar, who is a member of the State Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, helped pass legislation this year to elevate the Division of Veterans’ Services to a full-fledged department, creating a one-stop shop for veterans’ benefits.
The assemblywoman has introduced legislation to make more veterans eligible for public housing, and another bill to make it easier for veterans to integrate into higher educational institutions after serving.
Meanwhile, Addabbo, who is a member of the NYS Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, said he is working on improving services for veterans so they can get all the assistance they are deserving of when they return home.
“These men are proof that when a veteran retires from service, they continue to look for ways to serve. Now they are all serving and making a difference right in their communities,” Addabbo said. “It is my belief that every day is Veterans Day, and we should honor our veterans every chance we get.”