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Marshall honors veterans, reservists at Borough Hall

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Speaking into the silence of Borough Hall’s Veterans Memorial Garden, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said this year’s Memorial Day holiday was a time to remember the dead as well as the living.

A special reverence for those lost in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and those who helped clean-up efforts at Ground Zero permeated the 2002 Memorial Day ceremony at Borough Hall, which honored the U.S. Army Reserve, 77th Regional Support Command from Bayside’s Fort Totten.

Marshall, who presented awards recognizing reservists, police officers, firefighters and emergency services personnel from throughout the borough, presided over the solemn ceremony.

“This year Memorial Day is especially meaningful and poignant to us,” she told the more than 130 veterans and audience members who attended Friday’s event.

Marshall, who said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks “started the first war of the 21st century,” told the audience the war against terrorism was about America’s values.

“We fight not against a country but for an ideal and a way of life,” she said.

The 77th ARCOM, or Army Reserve Command, is the largest on the East Coast and has been intimately involved in Ground Zero rescue and recovery efforts since the attacks.

Terrorists hijacked two commercial airplanes in their mission to crash into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, which collapsed. Some 2,800 people, including 23 police officers and 343 firefighters, died in the attack.

Of those who died at Ground Zero, six were members of the 77 ARCOM, Major Gen. Richard Colt said during the ceremony.

Looking onto the crowd filled with dozens of reservists, police officers and firefighters as well as elderly veterans, Colt said he saw not only the veterans of the country’s past wars but of its latest conflict as well.

“I see the veterans of Sept. 11,” he said. “My dad was a cop — I know the sacrifices you make.”

Colt, who accepted a proclamation from Marshall on behalf of the 77 ARCOM, said “where are we? — in a city with a hole in its heart, and a big one, but in a city of people who are filling that hole with love.”

State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), an infantry veteran of the Korean War, attended the ceremony as did state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans).

While Maltese voiced his appreciation of both the borough’s veterans and Marshall for holding the ceremony, Smith said he has a new appreciation for veterans.

Smith said he has always been impressed by police officers and firefighters in dress uniforms, but the sight of the uniformed officers this Memorial Day was special.

“It never meant as much to me as it does now,” he said. “I will offer my continuous prayers for each and every one of you.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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