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Queens Chronicle

Veterans honored at borough hall

Trio given citations by Melinda Katz in celebration for those who served

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Posted: Monday, November 12, 2018 3:51 pm

In celebration of the men and women who have served their country, veterans were honored at Borough Hall last Thursday.

“I’m from that generation of the draft and our older brothers and their friends’ brothers getting drafted and remembering the memories of people coming home and not being honored,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “I’m thankful that we honor, now, everyone that comes home and has fought for our country.”

Katz added, “I know that every single night I put my children to bed I am only able to do that because of the sacrifices that each and every one of you made for our country.”

In addition to veterans in the audience were students from PS 16 in Corona.

“We have young people here who are going to go back to their school and talk to their friends and they need to understand that whether you came here yesterday to live the American dream in this great country ... or whether you’re fourth-generation Queens, the men and women in this room that fought for this country are the reason that we have a country to come to,” said Katz, whose mother was a singer who performed in the USO during World War II.

Three veterans were honored with citations onstage during the celebration.

Sarah Bradwisch served for 12 years in the Navy, rising to lieutenant and was part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, Unit Meritorious Award, Overseas Medal and National Defense Medal. Bradwisch was also the first woman to serve aboard the USS Chandler.

“In the words of Maya Angelou, it is so very important to honor both our heroes and our ‘sheroes,’” Bradwisch said, adding that women are the fastest growing population in the veterans community.

Bradwisch teaches at Kingsborough Community College.

“Brooklyn?” Katz joked. “Really?”

Steven Epps, a staff sergeant in the Air Force who served two tours in Vietnam, was also given a citation.

“To my fellow veterans, you should be here too,” Epps said. He has been involved in a number of veterans posts after serving.

The final honoree was Luke Gasparre, private first class in the Army during World War II. He was a soldier in the 87th Infantry division serving in Europe and helped liberate the French city of Metz from Nazi control. Gasparre, who was wounded in action, was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

After returning home, he lived in Astoria. “We grow them tough in Queens,” Katz said.

He worked for the Post Office for 34 years and recently retired from his job as usher at Mets games after 54 years.

“We must never forget all the veterans and their families and must support them providing the necessary services to repay them in some small way for their sacrifice,” Gasparre said. “Finally, we must keep them in our thoughts and prayers for protecting us from those who wish to harm us and endanger our way of life.”

Gasparre was enshrined in the Veterans Hall of Fame by the state Senate two years ago.

At the celebration on Thursday was state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, who said that the government has an obligation to help its veterans.

“How do we say thank you?” he asked the audience. “It’s nice enough that we say thank you to our veterans but how do we say thank you?”

He said that what has been done for veterans is “merely scratching the surface of what we can do for our veterans.” Addabbo said there “is no room for politics when talking about help” when it comes to veterans.

Addabbo also wanted the students at the event to understand the significance.

“Why do they get to go to the school they want? Because of our veterans,” he said. “Why do they get to choose the career that they wish to pursue? Because of our veterans. Why did we have Election Day just the other day? Because of our veterans.”

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park) is a member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and a friend of Bradwisch’s, a Rockaway Park resident. Pheffer Amato also noted the importance of educating the students about history.

“There’s nothing more important than the lessons we can give our children ... and we have to bring our young folks in to understand our country and where we came from,” Pheffer Amato said.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens, Nassau) also spoke at the event.

“We are indeed the greatest country that this planet has ever seen and the reason we are that great country is because of the men and women that are in this audience and those that have given their lives so that we can live in this beautiful country,” he said.

His father served in World War II. Meeks recalled how when his father was dying several years ago, men he served with were calling and trying to get in touch with him despite not having seen him in years.

“They came to his bedside,” Meeks said.

The congressman recognized that the men and women in the audience risked it all for their country.

“When you think of giving your life for a belief in a country it shows who we are and the fabric of the men and women that served in our military,” Meeks said.

He added, “Making and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for a nation is the greatest honor that there can be.”

This Veterans Day marked the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day, which brought an end to World War I.

Armistice Day honored World War I veterans. In 1954, it was changed to Veterans Day to honor those who served in all wars.

Helen Day, vice president of both the Richmond Hill Historical Society and Friends of Maple Grove Cemetary, spoke about some of the young men from the area who died, with some even giving false ages in order to enlist. In the 19 months the United States fought in World War I, 71 men from Richmond Hill were killed in action.

Also participating in Thursday afternoon’s program was the Francis Lewis High School JROTC Color Guard which presented the colors for the event under the director of command Sgt. Major Charles Cabrera.

Bruce Cunningham, airman first class in the Air Force in the early 1960s, recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Niamh Hyland sang the national anthem and “America the Beautiful.” Rabbi Eli Blokh from the Chabad of Rego Park recited the invocation and benediction.

Flotilla Staff Officer Barbara Wighton of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Band played taps.

“Your service to this great nation is a bond we should never forget,” Meeks told the audience.

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