Middle Village paid tribute to the nation’s veterans at its annual Veterans Day Parade on Sunday, Nov. 12.
The parade started on the corner of 80th Street along Metropolitan Avenue, with revelers waving American flags and holding signs thanking veterans for their service and sacrifice.
This year’s grand marshal was U.S. Marine Corps veteran Sgt. Brendan Gibbons. The Queens native and Middle Village resident served from 1996 to 2002 and received numerous military commendations, including two Navy and Marine Achievement medals and the Kosovo Campaign Medal and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, to name a few. After leaving active duty, Gibbons joined the NYPD and retired as a detective in 2020.
The parade concluded with a ceremony at Christ the King Regional High School, where elected officials honored the service and sacrifices made by veterans.
Former United States Coast Guard service member Jon Kablack, the Community Council president for the NYPD’s 104th Precinct, received the Anthony G. Pace Patriot Award 2023, and Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar awarded Kablack and Gibbons with a proclamation from the state of New York.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a member of the Senate Veterans Committee, thanked veterans for the work they do beyond their military service and stressed that much more needed to be done for veterans who deal with mental health and housing issues.
“We can never do enough to show our gratitude to our nation’s defenders. We can always do a little more,” Addabbo said, quoting actor Gary Sinise.
NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said that, during his time as a City Council member, he worked alongside veterans and passed a law prohibiting housing discrimination against veterans. Williams also co-sponsored a bill that requires the Department of Veterans Services to develop an informational pamphlet on resources and services available to veterans through the department.
“It is critical to help [veterans] know their rights and resources so they don’t feel alone or abandoned,” Williams said. “By offering both online and physical resources to get this information in the hands of people who need it, I’m hoping to be able to connect people, particularly our veterans, to the care they need and deserve.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said housing was a “huge issue” for military members returning from service.
“We should have zero, zero, zero veterans who are looking for housing when they come back,” Richards said.
Richards’ office has been in talks with the state regarding the re-development of the 54-acre Creedmoor campus off Grand Central Parkway in Queens Village.
“We have said to the state that that project will not proceed without veterans housing being incorporated into the plan,” Richards said.
Rajkumar, who serves on the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, pointed out approximately 68,000 veterans were homeless.
“Veterans are actually twice as likely to become homeless as others who have not served,” Rajkumar, who introduced a bill that would increase eligibility for veterans in public housing.
Looking at the sparse crowd in the auditorium, Rajkumar said it was important to instill “patriotism into our young people and into our entire community.”
“This auditorium should be filled with or force overflow space. And I will not stop until this auditorium is packed,” Rajkumar said. “Everyone should be coming to honor our veterans.”
Former state Sen. Serphin Maltese who enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserves when he was 17 and served in the Korean War.
Maltese, 90, said that the average World War II and Korean War veterans were now in their 90s and urged Americans to thank those who fought for their country.
“They do appreciate you telling them you thank them for their service,” Maltese said. “But more than that, they will merit your appreciation because they fought, and many of them died for our country.”