BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
The city’s Parks Department, members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 and elected officials representing western Queens gathered at Elmhurst Park on Friday to unveil designs for a Vietnam War Memorial that will pay tribute to the 420 Queens men who fought during the Vietnam War.
Chapter 32 has been lobbying to get a memorial in Queens for more than a decade and now that designs have been announced, the $3 million Vietnam Veterans Memorial is underway at Elmhurst Park. The groundbreaking is scheduled to take place in fall 2018 and the project’s completion is expected by fall 2019.
“I am just so proud today, and I’m more proud because I know what we went through to get here,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who has been a longtime champion for the memorial. “Four-hundred-twenty names are now scheduled to be on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Those are 420 folks who have not been memorialized in the borough of Queens in a permanent fashion and they should’ve been a long time ago. It should’ve been when they came home, should’ve been a long time ago. And they are now going to get some recognition for their families and for their brothers and sisters in arms as folks come here and are able to reflect on the war and able to show the next generation what we should be doing for our veterans.”
The memorial will be constructed on the northern portion of Elmhurst Park, which borders Maspeth and Elmhurst, and will consist of two semi-circular granite walls. One wall will list the names of Queens veterans who died while fighting in the Vietnam War as well as a history of the conflict and a list of key events and dates. The other wall will bear the name of the memorial and have the five crests of the military and Vietnam Service Medal etched on the outside. The inside of that wall will have bamboo etched onto it.
The memorial will also include newly planted trees and flowers, a flag pole, benches, a lawn and map centered between the two walls that will highlight important battles during the war.
While the site will specifically honor veterans of the Vietnam War, Chapter 32 wants visitors to also reflect on all of the people from the borough who have fought in wars.
“The Queens Vietnam Veterans Memorial brings to fruition a dream of former Chapter 32 President Pat Toro’s, which was conceived in 2008,” said Chapter 32 president Michael O’Kane. “It was Pat’s dream that families of fallen Vietnam Veterans would have a centralized place to gather and reflect on their loved ones’ sacrifice.”
Toro, who had been the longtime president of Chapter 32 and a retired law enforcement officer, died at age 64 in 2014.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org