Paul Narson, the latest president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Queens Chapter 32, has only been in office a few months but is determined to do everything he can to improve the plight of all veterans in Queens.
Narson, 70, of Flushing, replaced Pat Toro Jr., who resigned last fall, but remains on the VVA’s national board of directors.
The Flushing man served in the Army from 1959 to 1965, including Reserve duty, primarily in Germany. He never served in Southeast Asia, but noted that the VVA is open to any former member of the armed forces who served full-time for more than six months during the Vietnam War era, from 1962 to 1975.
“I didn’t know about the VVA until I ran across them at a street fair in 1989,” he said. “When I found out I was eligible, I joined on the spot.”
The Queens chapter has 162 members and Narson would like to increase that number. “We are trying new things at meetings; having guest speakers and a meal,” he said. “It’s a way to attract people.”
He said that’s one of his main goals as well as “letting people know that some veterans need help. We want to make sure they have the proper medical care they need and jobs.”
Through the help of grants, the Queens chapter has hired a service representative who helps all veterans get the benefits they are entitled to.
To increase awareness and get new members, the group participates in 27 street fairs a year and marches in Veterans Day and Memorial Day parades in Queens and Manhattan. Members also work actively with residents of the St. Albans Veterans Facility and Domiciliary, providing gifts for Valentine’s Day and a catered dinner during the Christmas season.
But what Narson is most proud of is the chapter’s involvement in burying poor veterans from New York City. “We are the family friend of indigent vets,” he said. “We work with the city to bury them with full military honors.”
He said the Hess-Miller Funeral Home in Middle Village handles the details and the VVA provides an honor guard and service at a military cemetery. Since 2008, the group has supervised 59 burials of veterans and three of their spouses, paid for by the city. “We never want any veteran to be buried in potter’s field,” Narson said.
The group also holds a veterans information day in May. This year’s event location has not been determined yet.
Narson grew up in the Bronx and after military service worked as a customer service representative in the auto glass business until 2006. Following an illness, he worked from 2008-2010 for a plate glass company and then severely broke his ankle. He is seeking employment now.
The president is a member of the Jewish War Veterans and the American Legion and also serves as VVA membership chairman. He and his wife, Marilyn, have been married for 32 years and they have two children.
VVA headquarters are at 88-61 76 Ave. in Glendale. For information, call (718) 830-0037 or Narson at (631) 897-3269.