Vietnam War veterans and the city’s top veterans’ advocate will be recognized in a special way during the 85th Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade.
Regarded as the largest Memorial Day march in the country, the parade will feature as many as a dozen bands including the West Point marching band from the U.S. Military Academy. This year’s march will place additional emphasis on Vietnam War veterans, as this year marks the 50th anniversary of American involvement in the conflict. More than 58,200 American soldiers died in the decade-long war.
“We felt it was long past time to specially honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice there and those who bear the memory of their fallen brothers and sisters,” said Douglas Montgomery, who co-chairs the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade Association.
Leading this year’s march as grand marshal will be Dr. Loree Sutton, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, who also is a retired Army brigadier general. Sutton served as the command surgeon for the Multinational Force in Iraq and was previously deployed to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt. She earned various military honors including the Bronze Star Medal, the Presidential Service Badge (White House Fellow) and the Legion of Merit.
The association will also honor Douglaston resident Carl F. Mattone, president of Mattone Group LLC, as its man of the year. Along with developing numerous large-scale projects throughout Queens, Mattone contributes to his alma mater, Holy Cross High School, and various charitable organizations including the Queens Library Foundation, the Italian Charities of America, the Order of Sons of Italy, the American Cancer Society, the Queens Museum of Art and the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) program at College Point’s P.S. 129.
Lidia Bastianich, the Emmy-winning host of her own PBS cooking show and Douglas Manor resident, will also be recognized as the association’s woman of the year. Bastianich opened her first restaurant in Forest Hills, and over the years expanded her culinary empire across the country. Like Mattone, she is active in a host of charitable causes, providing support to the Bowery Mission, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, the Global Orphan Project, the Italian American Committee on Education and the United Nations Development Fund for Women.
The association will also recognize Jerry Vilbig with its community service award. Vilbig served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War and is presently vice commander of American Legion Post 103 in Douglaston, which sponsored the first Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade. He is an active member of the Udall’s Cove Preservation Society board of directors.
Scheduled to take place rain or shine, the march steps off at 2 p.m. on May 25 in Great Neck from the corner of Northern Boulevard and Jayson Avenue. Participants will head west along Northern Boulevard to the yard of St. Anastasia’s Church, located near Northern Boulevard and 245th Street.
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