Juniper Valley Park was transformed on Friday.
It became a somber yet thankful memorial to the men and women who sacrificed their lives in Vietnam or defended their country in any way in the armed forces.
On that day, veterans and volunteers opened a half-size traveling replica of Washington D.C.’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
“The moving wall is moving in more ways than one,” said Paul Narson who heads the Vietnam Veterans of America, Queens Chapter 32.
Middle Village Veterans Day Parade Committee spearheaded bringing the wall to the park, a process that took years.
Before the opening on June 29, volunteers built a base for the traveling monument to be
installed on. And until its closing on July 2, volunteers provided 24-hour security and guidance to anyone looking for a name.
“It’s here. It’s finally here, and I’m happy it’s here,” said Salvatore Candela, who heads the committee.
Dignitaries, local legislators and veterans all spoke before the opening—many earnestly and tearfully honoring friends, relatives or anyone else who sacrificed their lives.
Of the almost 60,000 names on the wall, 512 represent soldiers from Queens.
On Friday, dozens of people visited to pay their respects.
Rene Menendez approached the wall by himself. He paused before a panel, read each name and paused to pay his respect. He continued this for every panel on the towering black wall.
“If it takes me an hour, I don’t care,” Menendez said, “because I’m here and they’re not.
Story and photos by Jeremiah Dobruck