On May 29th, Memorial Day, a small crowd gathered by Nine Heroes Plaza on Broadway and 41st Ave by 76th St, in Elmhurst, an event to honor and pay respect to those fallen, the first of its kind. The small triangular park displays along the flagpole’s base the names of nine service men lost in Vietnam. These names were read aloud, preceded by the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and salute to the flag. A group of small American Flags were placed in the grass along the fence perimeter. After a decorative floral wreath red, white, and blue in color was fastened in place, Pastor Joe Mantovanni of St. Jacobus Lutheran Church led the group in prayer, followed by an impromptu round of heartfelt words by several in attendance including members of the Elmhurst History and Cemetery Preservation Society, Community Participants, Veterans on hand, and both Councilman Shekar Krishnan and Assemblyman Steven Raga, who stopped by en route to another nearby event. Food and refreshments were provided by La Linea, a Bolivian Church ladies group. Afterwards, the group proceeded to its second destination, the 1926 Elmhurst Memorial Hall on 43rd Avenue, where a second wreath was placed on its garden flagpole, and a floral arrangement in the form of an American flag was rested against the lost in war monument.

The impetus for this event was conceived by the Husband/Wife Community Activist team of Anthony Szeto and Angela Callisaya along with me and put into action.

“While walking, the three of us had a common aim of bringing an event to Nine Heroes Plaza, since nothing happens at that location,” said Szeto. “The reason was to create something for veterans who had fought and died for our country, and most veterans go to other locations to feel recognized for doing the honorable thing for our freedom, and the luxuries we can live in. They made it possible.”

I proposed a second portion to the day, concluding the event at Elmhurst Memorial Hall, a building and adjacent garden which honors veterans of all wars. A plaque out front lists some area WW1 members lost in war, while a second plaque inside was shown, which lists those lost in WW2. Two veterans in attendance spoke briefly on their experience, and how pleased they were to take part in this tribute in Elmhurst.

Steve Falco, Elmhurst resident, Bronx raised, was drafted into the U.S Army, and served from ’63-’65 at Fort Hood, Texas, and in Germany. “An event like this is important because it must be remembered that the people that are here now benefit because others gave their lives for this country,” said Falco. “I chose not to reenlist. I’m an American. I saw body bags coming back to the post, and the personal belongings of all the dead soldiers from Vietnam that were collected and brought to the post to distribute to their families,” added Falco.

Carlos Garcia, 4th infantry division, U.S Army, who served from ’87-’91 in operation Desert Storm, said, “This event was wonderful. It came out perfect. I would like to serve back in any community event that remembers our close ones, our veterans, our fighters.”

The floral arrangements were provided by small business owners Abraham and Luz Hernandez. Impressively, both wreaths and American flag lasted about a month afterwards braving the elements. As soon as they were informed of the reason for the event, the couple graciously donated the wreaths and American flag arrangement.

“We help the community around here and are longtime friends with community members. I was in the army in my country, so it made me feel a special connection and want to participate,” said Mr. Hernandez.

“From this Memorial Day event, we will build forward, and make it an annual part of Elmhurst’s tradition,” concluded Szeto.