American Legion Post 1404 sponsored the event at Broad Channel Park attended by more than 100 people.
"I'm here to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice," Clinton said. "Today we take special notice of those who served in the Korean War. All too often the Korean War is not given the attention it richly deserves."
Clinton told the veterans in the audience "I think it is imperative that we honor your services, not just with words, but with tangible benefits through the Veterans' Administration."
She advocated permanent funding of Veterans Affairs. "We owe it to them to ensure that when they return home they have the medical care and services they need," she said. "It should be beyond politics and partisanship."
Clinton excerpted a speech she read on the Senate floor about the five Broad Channel men who never returned from Korea. "As our nation's soldiers are once again fighting for the cause of freedom overseas, it is all the more important to remember those who helped protect America on the Korean peninsula a half century ago," she said.
The five Broad Channel residents who did not return home were Walter Gross, prisoner of war, missing in action, July 31, 1951; Joseph DePietro, killed in action, Oct. 10, 1951; Ralph Mitola, killed in action, Aug. 1, 1952; James Farrell, killed in action, Nov. 10, 1952; and Thomas August, killed in action, Nov. 27, 1952.
Members of Post 1404 prepared the ceremonial empty chair draped with cloth bearing the POW/MIA logo. This act, which is performed at every American Legion meeting, represents the presence of those never found during battle.
Touting his community's staunch patriotism to Clinton, Dan O'Sullivan, past county commander of the American Legion, noted that "Broad Channel is small-town America in the Big Apple, where the American flag flies on practically every home."
He continued, "Senator, after marching in the parade tonight and seeing all of the flags on this route, it shows you that better than 90 percent of the people in this small-town America in the Big Apple support the passage of the flag amendment," he said.
"It is our hope that you will jump on the bandwagon and vote yes for the flag amendment when it comes on the floor of the Senate for a vote during the week of June 21," he said. The flag amendment would ban desecration of the American flag.
One topic that made its way into many of the night's speeches was that of dissent. Clinto said at one point that "you know, in the fine tradition of America we can disagree. In fact, it's part of the American birthright and it's probably in the New York DNA to disagree. But when it comes to supporting our troops we have to stand united."
Other elected officials attending Friday's event included Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach), state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) and City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach).
"To our veterans, if you fight oversees, you will not fight for benefits at home," Smith said. He was referring to the often controversial funding of Veterans Administration benefits.
Weiner spoke on the topic of dissent. "We can disagree about the direction of our country, but it was those five men who died to give us that right," he said.
Clinton was originally scheduled to appear at a similar event last year but canceled at the last minute, causing a minor political flap, O'Sullivan said.
Reach reporter Tommy Hallissey by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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