Keeping with this year’s theme of honoring the sacrifice of Vietnam War veterans, organizers of the annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade have added five men who fought in the decade-long conflict to its slate of honorees at this May’s march.
John Rowan will serve as honorary grand marshal of the parade. A Queens resident, he is a founding member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 and a five-term president of the national Vietnam Veterans of America.
During the conflict, Rowan served with the Air Force as a linguist with the Strategic Air Command, gathering intelligence on North Vietnamese missile defenses.
Four other local Vietnam veterans were tapped as parade marshals:
- Joseph Graham, a graduate of St. Anastasia’s School in Little Neck, served in the Air Force between 1963 and 1966; prior to his discharge, he was stationed at Da Nang air base. The founder of Graham Restoration Co., the first certified service disabled veteran-owned business in New York State, Graham is an active member of numerous veterans groups including the American Legion Edward McKee Post 131 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4787, both in Whitestone.
- Pat Gualtieri of Queens also served in the Vietnam War and is presently the executive producer of the United War Veterans Council and an active member of the Samaritan Village Veterans Program. He has also produced the last 15 renewals of the city’s Veterans Day Parade held every November. The committee credited his efforts and expertise to rescuing the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade after the 2014 march was in jeopardy.
- Robert McGarry of Little Neck enlisted in the Navy in 1967 at the age of 21; for two years, he performed in numerous operations as an underwater demolition expert (a forerunner of the modern Navy SEALS). Hearing loss forced his discharge in 1971, and he is presently an active member of the Little Neck-American Legion Post 103.
- Richard Weinberg of Hollis Hills Terrace served in the U.S. Army’s 41st Artillery Battalion between 1967 and 1969 and was discharged as a specialist fourth class. The local attorney is a longtime member and treasurer of American Legion Post 103.
Also named as a parade marshal was Korean War veteran Sebastian D’Agostino of Bayside Hills, who served with the U.S. Army and earned a black belt in judo. In addition to his activities at American Legion Post 103, he serves as caretaker of the World War II Memorial on Bell Boulevard in Bayside Hills.
Finally, the committee will induct the late Pat Toro, former president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32, into its Legion of the Fallen during an interfaith service prior to the May 25 parade. Toro died last July of blood cancer.
Back in March, the organizers announced Dr. Loree Sutton, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, would serve as the parade’s grand marshal. The committee will also honor developer Carl Mattone as its man of the year, television chef Lydia Bastanich as its woman of the year and local veteran Jerry Villbig with its community service award.
Click here for more information about the parade.