Lest we forget: Patriots honored at veterans’ reception

The United Military Veterans of Kings County held its 20th Patriotism Award Reception, a traditional prelude to Brooklyn’s Memorial Day Parade, honoring patriots that have supported veterans and veterans’ issues, this past Wednesday, May 24, at the U.S. Army Fort Hamilton Garrison Community Club in Bay Ridge.  

“In addition to those who support veterans, we are also looking at folks that have supported our Memorial Day Parade – either by working on it, promoting it, or perhaps even donating some money to it,” Raymond Aalbue, executive director, United Military Veterans of Kings County, told the Brooklyn Reporter.  Aalbue is also chairman of the parade. 

“We have had ‘patriots’ that served in every war; and there are also those that didn’t serve at all,” Aalbue said, adding that a military background is not a prerequisite.  

Award recipients for 2023 included Major Juan Diaz, U.S. Army; banker Brian Chin; and former Lieutenant Governor Joe Corace. 

Diaz, a native of Brooklyn, was critical to the success of the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force (UAMTF) missions, the Army Reserve’s first key response to COVID-19 in the earliest days of the pandemic. He was adaptive and creative in manning and mobilizing over 160 soldiers for the first ever UAMTF missions. And during the height of the COVID pandemic, Diaz independently took the initiative to establish the Brigade Emergency Operations Center, to ensure synchronization across the entire brigade. Diaz currently serves as chair of the NYS American Legion Homeland Security Committee, supporting numerous veteran groups.

“It feels awesome that I’ve been celebrated for something that I just do automatically,” Diaz said. “It’s a true honor.”

Brian Chin, branch manager of Citizens Bank in Bay Ridge, displaying his award.

Brian Chin, branch manager of Citizens Bank on 72nd Street and Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, is former president and current director for the Colonial Club, and secretary of the 12:30 Club. He is also a recipient of the “Rising Stars” award from The Home Reporter/Brooklyn Spectator.

In addition, Chin was recently instrumental in attaining a float for the Memorial Day Parade, he said. “It took about seven years to facilitate that, but in the end it really helped the elderly, and those that were unable to march (without the use of a float).” 

Affectionately known as “Mr. Kiwanis,” for his decades-long commitment to Kiwanis, a global organization of volunteers dedicated to improving the world one child and one community at a time, Joe Corace also served as Brooklyn division lieutenant governor in 1992-93. He now serves as president of the Kiwanis Club of Mapleton, Brooklyn, and chairman of the board of directors of the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Center at North Shore Hospital. 

“The award meant something special to me because I’ve been involved with the parade and veterans for a very long time,” Corace said. “And for them to single me out as someone they want to honor made it wonderful and very humbling.” 

From left: Forbes Irvine, Nydia Corace, Joe Corace, Elizabeth Santo, and Joseph Ruggiero

The Patriotism Award Reception is the brainchild of Edward Cush, a Korean War veteran and staunch supporter of the Memorial Day Parade. (Cush also won the award back in 2006.)

There were also several notable attendees at the event, who spoke exclusively to this newspaper after the reception.

Gold Star Mother Emily Toro said that it’s great to be able to recognize these people for what they do – veterans, active service members, and others.

“People tend to forget; everything isn’t always about barbeques,” Toro explained. “This event really puts things in perspective.”

Former New York State Senator Marty Golden was also in attendance.

“Tonight is a special night,” Golden said, “remembering our veterans – remembering the ones that gave up two lives: the life they were living, and the life they would have lived.”  

And Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Martin Maher, an award recipient in 2019, noted that “it’s great to be here as both a veteran and a supporter of veterans.”

Incidentally, Brooklyn’s 156th Memorial Day Parade will take place on Monday, May 29 at 11 a.m. – beginning on 78th Street and Third Avenue. A memorial service in John Paul Jones Park will follow immediately afterward.

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