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Maspeth Memorial Day parade to honor Vietnam veterans

"This year we're honoring the Vietnam veterans because this is the 30th anniversary of the Vietnamese war," said parade organizer Helen O'Brien. "It's going to be bigger and better than every other one."O'Brien, who has helped organize the parade for 19 years, will be the co-grand marshal with local resident and war veteran Pat Toro. They will lead the march down Grand Avenue at 72nd Street at 1 p.m. A former police officer, Toro was a Marine in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 and today heads the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 in Queens. O'Brien said the event promises to be a great spectacle. The organizers, the Veterans and Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth, are busing in dozens of sailors who will be in Manhattan for Fleet Week to march. The procession will also have nine bands - including the esteemed 319th Adjutant General Army Band - more than 80 Marines, a military color guard and 1,000 civilians with floats, antique cars and Army vehicles. "It's gotten even bigger," she said. "Right now I think we have seven divisions. Each division has a band."A service will follow at 2 p.m. in Maspeth Memorial Park at 72nd Street and Grand Avenue. More than 100 local Vietnam veterans will be honored with special medals and two residents will get community service awards. Sophie Kiewlak, a 92-year-old who served in the Army as a cook during World War II, will receive the Maspeth Senior Citizen Award. Kiewlak signed up in 1943 and served as a mess sergeant in Des Moines, Iowa, where she met first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was transferred to Hastings Air Base in Calcutta, India, where she helped ship supply troops in China during the fight with Japan. PS 229 third-grade teacher Meagan Walter will be honored with the Maspeth Youth Award for a lifetime of service in the community. While attending Christ the King High School in Middle Village, Walter volunteered upstate as a counselor at a summer camp for the deaf and mentally challenged. She is a recipient of the Girl Scout Gold Award - the highest award in the Girl Scouts - and sits on the youth organization's Gold and Silver Award committees. She coaches the girl's swim team at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Maspeth, where she became a Eucharistic minister and launched a youth ministry in 2004. Reach Matt Monks at or 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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