On a bright sunny Saturday morning, March 26, the United War Veterans Council of New York held its 12th annual Vietnam Veterans Day Commemoration program at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza, 55 Water St. in Manhattan. Leading into the plaza is a “Walk of Honor” featuring a series of polished granite pylons with the names of all 1,741 from the city who died in the Vietnam War from 1964-75.
The event kicked off with a U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard resplendent in dress blue uniforms and the playing of the national anthem.
Executive Director Mark Otto introduced Donald Hendon, NYC commissioner of the Department of Veterans’ Services, who gave brief remarks and read a proclamation signed by Mayor Bill DeBlasio. He was followed by Mike Boccini, deputy director of the New York State Division of Veteran Services, who spoke and read a state proclamation from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Vince McGowan received the 2021 Patrick L. Gualtieri Service to Vietnam Veterans Award. McGowan, a Marine Corps veteran and founder of the United War Veterans Council, is credited with revitalizing the NYC Veterans Day Parade (the largest veterans event in the country).
Ten memorial wreaths from various veteran groups were walked to the center of the plaza. One of the wreath-carriers was retired Lt. Col. Lee Anderson. The Vietnam veteran served as a deputy garrison commander of Fort Hamilton and later headed and founded one of the first Army Junior ROTC programs in the city, at Bay Ridge’s Fort Hamilton High School.
The event concluded with a Marine Corps rifle squad firing a 21-gun salute and a Marine bugler playing “Taps.”