W is for war, a three-letter word that typifies all that is good and bad about society. On the positive side, war brings out valour, heroism under fire and strength for those serving their country. For those on the home front, words like love and sacrifice for the greater good are not uncommon.
In Queens, those who have served their country, many of whom paid for it with their lives, are remembered in most parks and public triangles with statues, monuments and plaques.
On holidays such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day, many of these sites are brightened by flowers and wreaths left by local veterans groups and politicians. Although the flowers may wither and die, the memorials remain there year in and year out. Just look around and you’ll find them.
Two tributes to World War I artillerymen, known as doughboys, are in Woodside and Richmond Hill parks. Both feature large bronze statues and have become important landmarks in the community.
Doughboy Park at Woodside Avenue and 54th Avenue in Woodside features a statue of an American soldier holding his helmet and was named best war memorial of its kind in the 20th century in 1928 by the American Foundation of Arts.
In Woodside, over 200 local residents served in World War I and their sacrifices are remembered in other nearby locations. They include Sergeant Collins Triangle at Broadway and 59th Street and Sohncke Square at Roosevelt Avenue and 58th Street.
Everyone in Richmond Hill knows the Buddy Monument, located at Park Lane South and Memorial Drive. It is a popular meeting point and the site for many wedding party pictures.
This bronze statue of a bareheaded soldier pausing at the grave of a fallen comrade was dedicated in 1926 as a gift of the Richmond Hill community to those killed in World War I. It is entitled, “My Buddy.”
The statue was designed by Joseph Pollia and is considered unusual for its pose of the doughboy without a helmet and at rest. The granite pedestal bears an honor roll of 71 Richmond Hill soldiers who died. The nearby flagstaff, made from granite and bronze, is another gift from the community to honor those who served in that war.
Memorials to World War II soldiers abound. Some of the more unusual locations include Daniel Carter Beard Park on Northern Boulevard (near Union Street) in Flushing, which is actually a traffic island, and a public triangle in Douglaston near the Long Island Rail Road station beneath one of the borough’s oldest weeping beech trees.
Jim Rodgers, chairman of the Little Neck-Douglaston Parade Organization, hopes to set up a monument program soon that will involve local schoolchildren in cleaning up memorial sites and planting flowers.
Plans are now being finalized for the Korean War memorial that will go into Kissena Park in Flushing. It will honor American and South Korean soldiers. William Crozier’s winning design depicts an eight-foot soldier crossing jagged terrain, looking ahead. The second part of it features silhouettes of soldiers, including one on a stretcher. Between the two bronze pieces is a three-foot walkway.
At the rear of the monument will be the names of 165 men and women from Queens who lost their lives in the conflict. Names are still being sought for the memorial, which is expected to be completed next June. Send names and pertinent information to Councilman John Liu at 135-27 38th Avenue, Suite 388, Flushing, NY 11354.
The new memorial will be located near the tennis courts and is the only one in the borough to honor those lost in the Korean War. It will cost $650,000, funded primarily by the city and state with some donations from local community members.
Tributes to local residents lost in the Vietnam War are smaller in number. It was an unpopular war that divided the country. One memorial, known as “Nine Heroes,” is located on a traffic triangle on Broadway and 76th Street in Elmhurst. It honors those service members from the community who died in battle.
Although the war was not popular, those who died in it were remembered as heroes earlier this fall through the efforts of the Queens Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America. Members were able to secure The Moving Wall for a week’s showing in October in Fresh Meadows’ Cunningham Park.
It took three years for the VVA to find a location and get it to Queens. The exhibit is a smaller replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The opening ceremony was both moving and inspiring, and it was noted that 328 Queens men and women died in the conflict. Many in the audience were veterans or old enough to have lived through the war.
The traveling exhibit, a 252-foot replica of the original, has the 58,479 names of U.S. service members who lost their lives in the war or were reported missing in action. Many who visited the display were visibly moved, some leaving mementoes such as playing cards and combat boots.
One of the most memorable speakers was Father Cuong Pham, a Catholic priest in Queens Village, who lived in South Vietnam as a child. He and his family were persecuted after the war because the father had fought alongside American troops during the war and lived to suffer the consequences.
Eventually, after much hardship, the family was allowed to immigrate to the United States and settled in Flushing. “We were in tears when we came to the United States,” he said. “The veterans came out to greet us and gave us a new life. I’m grateful for you and this nation.”
A tribute to all veterans, both living and dead, is the Veterans Memorial Garden outside Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens. It was installed a few years ago and is a peaceful place to sit and contemplate. A special ceremony is held there prior to each Memorial Day