Pat Toro, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 in Glendale, said his group wanted to put the half-size replica of the wall in nearby Juniper Valley Park this October. But the organization was blocked from doing so by Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden, who cited issues such as trucks riding on the grass, security, interference with baseball play and the park staying open 24 hours for the memorial.
Holden could not be reached for comment.
Toro's group recently got permission from the Friends of Cunningham Park to put the memorial there instead from Oct. 2 through Oct. 9.
"We went through this when we came back from 'Nam," Toro said. "We never thought we would receive the opposition."
The last time the wall came to Queens was in 1991 at the Queens Festival in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. This year it will be in Cunningham Park near the tennis courts at 195th Street and Union Turnpike.
"To this day you have veterans of that war that are dying of injuries or disease that they got while they were there," Toro said.
Visitors will be able to etch the names of more than 58,000 soldiers off the wall. There will be a trailer for veterans who need counseling as well as an area where the names of loved ones can be looked up.
"It's a great honor for us to be able to bring it," Toro said. "We want to bring it to the veterans here - not just Vietnam veterans but all veterans."
The 262-foot-long replica of the Washington, D.C. monument is made of aluminum panels and is one of two such replicas on a constant tour of the country since the early 1980s.
"We're honored that we were selected for this event, and we believe the entire community supports and welcomes the opportunity to see a small piece of Americana," said Marc Haken, president of the Friends of Cunningham Park.
Nationwide demand for the walls led to a four-year wait for the Queens organization to secure one. But Toro said once the contract came through in mid-January, he was stalled for a month and a half because of opposition from Holden.
Toro said his group would provide security and the panels would be hand-delivered to the site from the trucks. He also said the memorial needed to stay open all night so that people could "reminisce or cry or pray" whenever they needed to.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2004 Community News Group
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