Brooklynites commemorated locals who died serving their country during the Vietnam War — and honored those who returned — at Fort Hamilton on March 30.
The “Vietnam Veterans Day Ceremony” honored servicemen and women in the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy, and paid homage to a Staten Island priest-turned-war-hero whose story is little-known on this side of the Narrows, said one veteran.
“People outside of Staten Island don’t really known about Father Capodanno, and it’s important that people know about the sacrifices this man made,” said Staten Islander Michael Palo, one of the ceremony honorees who was drafted into service when he was 19-years-old as a heavy equipment specialist. “I mean, this man chose to be a priest, but went into the army, became a medic, and without a firearm, sacrificed himself trying to save others.”
Speakers highlighted the Rock priest, who received a posthumous medal of honor in 1968 after he was shot 27 times trying to save a wounded corpsman only yards from an enemy machine gun. Honoring Capodanno’s sacrifice and the many others who lost their lives in Vietnam and across the globe was a moving tribute, said Palo.
“It was powerful,” he said. “Those are the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice who are the heroes for me — they died for our freedom. And people are still paying that price every day.”
The ceremony presented servicemen and women with certificates of appreciations and gold commemorative coins with an engraving of the Verrazano Bridge and the insignia of the respective service member’s branch. Etched in the coin is the statement, “The Face of the American Army in New York City.”
The recognition was a welcome surprise to Palo.
“I was not expecting that. I said, ‘Wow, this thing is gorgeous,’ ” said Palo. “Before, Vietnam veterans weren’t as acknowledged, and they’re trying to makeup for that now. And that’s fine by me. It felt good to be honored like that.”
But the event went beyond celebrating bravery, and gave veterans a chance to reconnect with their comrades.
“I really go to see other vets. I enjoy the camaraderie and seeing people who have been through the same thing,” said Palo. “They know — they’ve experienced similar things. So it’s great to be together and give people the recognition they really deserve.”
©2017 Community News Group
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