The large crowd at the Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade in Queens on Sunday proudly waved Old Glory while paying special homage to Vietnam War veterans in recognizing all who served our country.
The May 28 parade — just one of many tributes across the city on Memorial Day weekend — started with a ceremony outside the American Legion Post 1424, where speakers recalled the heroism of the men and women who answered their call to service and made the ultimate sacrifice while defending their country.
American Legion Post 1424 recognized honorees Lt. Kevin Kehoe, Mary Kehoe, Robert Schnell, Dr. Anthony Sarro, and Joseph Conley for their contribution and service.
Joseph Conley was drafted and served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He asked those in attendance to think about the number 58,479.
“That’s the reason why we are here today, Memorial Day,” Conley said. “The date, March 29, 1973, 50 years ago, we left Vietnam. Some people never left. 58,479, that’s the number of people who died in Vietnam.”
Congress Member Grace Meng thanked the Queens veterans who had come to Washington, DC, to advocate for the PACT Act, which provides new resources to many veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their service.
“For example, Agent Orange. This bill, I want to especially mention because it would not have happened without our veterans in Queens,” Meng said. “For eight years of my congressional career, our local veterans have not only advocated for this bill locally but have come to Washington DC almost every single year to push for this legislation. That will help millions more veterans across the country.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said that Memorial Day should serve as a reminder that “freedom isn’t free.”
“There are people who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to be able to enjoy this weather, to enjoy a hot dog later and a hamburger when it’s simply not about that,” Richards said. “It’s about ensuring that we pay homage once again to those who went on to glory.”
Richards pointed out that 59,000 veterans live in Queens, more than anywhere else in New York City, and while Borough Hall offers veterans services, he said that much more still needed to be done, especially addressing the number of homeless veterans.
“There should be zero veterans homelessness in our nation,” Richards said. “When you come home as a veteran, you should have a home.”
Libby, whose husband served in the Navy for six years, explained that her husband had recently joined Continental Post 1424 and that he was marching in the parade.
“Memorial Day weekend is a time that we remember fallen soldiers and the service and the sacrifice that these great men and women have given to our country,” Libby said. “So to come out here and show our pride and have a sense of accomplishment and a sense of pride for today.”