The Middle Village Veterans Day Parade, organized by the Queens Veterans Day Parade Committee, returned on Nov. 13 after a two-year COVID hiatus.
The parade started on the corner of 80th Street and Metropolitan Avenue and proceeded along the avenue, with spectators waving American flags and paying tribute to United States veterans. Over 20 groups, including the NYPD and Christ the Kind Marching Band, the Boys and Girls Scouts, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32, and the New York Naval and Coastal Patrol Cadet Corps, among others.
Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Paul J. Schottenhamel served as the parade’s grand marshal. The Queens native and Glendale resident enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1968. The Purple Heart recipient fought in Vietnam, and after leaving active duty in 1971, he served for 15 years in the 42nd Infantry Division of the New York Army National Guard. In 1986, he transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve and spent 11 years with the 1150th U.S. Army Reserve Forces School at Fort Hamilton.
With the NYC Department of Veterans Services, Schottenhamel coordinated the burials of more than 75 unclaimed veterans in Calverton National Cemetary.
Schottenhamel admitted he was a little surprised when they picked him as the parade’s grand marshal.
“I’ve been involved in these parades for a long time,” Schottenhamel said. “Usually, I’m with the civilian patrol directing traffic, and actually participating this year was nice.”
Looking at the ROTC students, Schottenhamel remarked that he hoped some of them would join the military. He wished that all schools offered a junior ROTC program.
“When I talked to the principals of the schools that have Junior ROTC, they love it because they set the standard for the rest of the school,” Schottenhamel said. “It’s really great.”
The parade commenced with a ceremony honoring vets at Christ the King High School, where elected officials addressed veterans, their families and service members after the pledge of allegiance and the National Anthem.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, shared that, in a bi-partisan effort, they were able to secure $97 billion for veterans’ medical care, including more mental health services. Currently, Meng is working on a grant through the SBA that would help veterans service organizations to get more resources and reach more veterans.
“We are really grateful for all of your services,” said Meng, who introduced the VA Regional Office Accountability act. “Thank you so much to all of you for being here today. We benefit every day being able to gather here like this.”
N.Y. State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, who serves on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, shared that she was working on two bills benefiting veterans. One is to transfer military training into educational credits and to expand public housing to more veterans.
“This is only the beginning of my work for veterans that I’m proud to do every day,” Rajkumar said.
Councilman Robert Holden recalled that his father, a WWII veteran who returned from the war suffering from PTSD but never received the treatment he would have deserved.
“I can tell you, living in the years that I lived with my family, it was very, very difficult,” Holden said.
Holden, who serves as the Veterans Committee Chair, shared that he visited the Borden Avenue veterans homeless shelter with Mayor Eric Adams and Councilwoman Julie Wong last week. He vowed to use his time in the City Council and as chair of the veterans’ committee to provide every veteran with the help they need.
Referring to the homeless shelter, Holden said, “Our veterans do not deserve to be in a homeless shelter. We should not allow that. They should be given supportive services and supportive housing. Again, affordable housing. They came back with post-traumatic stress and, for many of them, like my dad, couldn’t cope in life, couldn’t do it, and fell through the cracks. That should not be allowed to happen in the United States of America.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said that days like Veterans Day reminded him that “freedom isn’t free” because of the sacrifices veterans have made.
Richards shared that his office re-opened a satellite office for veterans and partnered with the New York State Department of Veterans Services, extending office hours.
“We really need you to know that if you’re in need of services, you don’t have to leave this borough,” Richards said. “And that, in partnership with both the city and state, allows you not to have to travel outside of this borough to access your benefits.”
Former NY State Senator Serphin Maltese, who enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserves when he was 17 and served in the Korean War, stressed that it was important to recognize his fellow veterans.
“They fought and, in many cases, died to give us freedom and to make America free and the land of opportunity, and to provide a future for our children, and our grandchildren, and our descendants,” Maltese said.