Queens Borough Hall honors veterans and fallen heroes at Memorial Day Observance Ceremony

Queens Borough Hall hosted a Memorial Day Observance Ceremony on Wednesday May, 22.
Photo by Athena Dawson

A group of valiant veterans of all walks of life were honored for their military service at a Memorial Day Observance Ceremony at the Queens Borough Hall Veterans Memorial Garden in Kew Gardens on Wednesday, May 22.

The ceremony took place on a bright, sunny day, as dozens of veterans gathered to celebrate a select group of veterans who were given proclamations to highlight their military service and honor fallen veterans who served in the United States Armed Forces.  

Special recognition was paid to the upcoming 80th anniversary of the Allied “D-Day” invasion of Normandy during World War II. Two World War II veterans, Rosario Agnello, a Queens resident and a Normandy veteran, and Seymour Schwartz, who served in the Pacific during that conflict, were among the group honored at the event. Both veterans will be celebrating their 100th birthdays in the upcoming months. 

World War II veteran Seymour Schwartz receives a proclamation at Wednesday’s Memorial Day event at Queens Borough Hall. Photo by Athena Dawson

The ceremony started with the Pledge of Allegiance, where the group of veterans solemnly saluted for the occasion, along with a touching rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Following the national anthem, Queen Borough President Donovan Richards gave a brief speech, thanking the veterans for their service and bravery in fighting for their country. “I think as we see conflict around the world, we are constantly reminded that freedom isn’t free. There are those that paid the ultimate sacrifice and their families paid the ultimate sacrifice as well,” he said. “Many of you served bravely and sacrificed a great deal for us to stand here today. We Americans owe so much to those who lay down their lives so that all of us back home are able to live in security.”  

Richards also paid tribute to those who fought during World War II, calling on society to never forget the 400,000 members of the military who lost their lives during the war. “That’s why those who fought for our country during World War II are truly the greatest generation,” he said. Richards also spoke about how he is advocating to build veterans housing on the campus of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. He also urged veterans who may suffer from post-war mental health issues to seek supportive services. 

A group of local Vietnam War veterans showed their support to those being honored for their military service at a Memorial Day event at Queens Borough Hall. Photo by Athena Dawson

Francisca Nazario, the director of the Queens Vet Center in Ridgewood, discussed the services available to veterans at the facility, which is operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Nazario explained the psychological toll military service has on veterans and the services offered to help them through their transitioning period. “When our veterans and service members return to Queens, we owe it to them and their families to provide them a soft place to land and to help them to create a new sense of hope and belonging,” she said. “That place must feel safe, patient, confidential and judgment-free. Often, that place is a vet center.” Nazario said the center is proud to offer free counseling services, even during nontraditional hours, and referrals to healthcare services, benefits, education and more. 

The main event of the ceremony included the honoring of five veterans and Nazario, with proclamations in recognition of their military service and support for veteran’s services.

The veteran honorees include Rosario Agnello, Seymour Schwartz, Mike Daughtry, William Barron and Hermant “Robin” Tilku.  Daughtry is a U.S. Army veteran of the 101st Airborne Division who was wounded in action during the Vietnam War. Barron, a Queens College student and president of the Queens College Student Association, served in the U.S. Army in Operation Desert Storm. Tilku is a Guyana native and U.S. Navy veteran who was deployed overseas on the USS Gonzalez during the post-9/11 Global War on Terror.

Rosario Agnello, a World War II veteran, is surrounded by his family as he receives a proclamation for his military service from Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. Photo by Athena Dawson

Many of the honorees gave brief speeches reflecting on their service and their appreciation of their proclamations. Tilku echoed the borough president’s views on the importance of veterans receiving mental health services after they return home from combat. “I actually just finished utilizing therapy and psychologists at the VA Hospital, all you have to do is just reach out to them. They are always there and are willing to help you,” he said.

U.S. Navy veteran Hermant “Robin” Tilku is honored. Photo by Athena Dawson

Barron also spoke, thanking the Queens Borough President’s office for the proclamation. He added that he wanted to give back to his community. “I made a vow that I want to give back. I want to give back to my veterans, my community, to everyone,” he said.

William Barron, a U.S. Army veteran of Operation Desert Storm, is honored at Wednesday’s Memorial Day event. Photo by Athena Dawson

Schwartz also shared with the crowd some of the harrowing experiences he faced as a young man fighting in World War II. “I know that today’s event focuses on memorializing those who are no longer with us, but I remind you that our young men come home every day to make the best of their lives, no matter their hurt, the mental wounds, the physical wounds. I ask that you think of them and make their lives easier and honor them,” he said.

The event closed with a rendition of Taps played on the bugle as the honorees gathered for a wreath-laying ceremony.