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Korean War vets saluted at Middle Village parade

For Middle Village resident Victor LaMagna, the Queens Veterans Day Parade in Middle Village last weekend was about remembering a war that cost at least 37,000 American lives, but has largely been forgotten in the country’s consciousness — so much so that the engagement in Korea is known as the “Forgotten War.”

“I feel the sadness of the children of the parents who never came home,” said LaMagna, 80, one of the parade’s five grand marshals. “During the war, families often got separated. We must remember the men and women who served and who continue to serve.”

The second-annual Queens Veterans Day Parade paid special tribute to the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, which occurred from 1950-53 and in which the U.S. Department of Defense estimates about 37,000 American soldiers lost their lives and in which United Nations officials said about 2 million civilians died. About 693 people from throughout the borough participated in the parade, which runs from Metropolitan Avenue and 78th Avenue to the parking lot of Christ the King Regional High School at 68-02 Metropolitan Ave.

Tania Broschart, president of the Middle Village Chamber of Commerce, who helped found the parade last year, said the event honors a different group of veterans each year. Last year, the parade highlighted veterans from World War II and next year it will pay homage to those who were in Vietnam.

“The parade is something very dear to the community’s heart,” said Broschart, whose father-in-law was a World War II veteran. “They’ve sacrificed so much.”

After the hundreds of drummers, dancers, former soldiers and politicians made their way down Metropolitan Avenue, a ceremony was held at the high school for the five grand marshals, who were Korean War veterans or who had family members in the Korean War.

“I grew up in Middle Village and went to school here, so to go through the streets in the parade being a grand marshal is an honor,” said Ann Heuser, 88, whose husband served in Korea.

Heuser and others said they hope that on this Veterans Day, which is officially celebrated Nov. 11, everyone will take a moment to remember those who have given their lives for the country.

“I wish young people would recognize the sacrifices people have made so we could live freely,” Heuser said.

Alongside LaMagna and Heuser, the other grand marshals were Corinne Hendy Alpert, who served in the U.S. Navy in 1952, has volunteered for more than 17 years at VA hospitals and is presently at the St. Albans VA; former state Sen. Serphin Maltese, a U.S. Army infantry veteran of the Korean War; and George Weihs, who served in Korea in the Army from 1950-52. Each grand marshal was presented with a flag by U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) that was flown over the U.S. Capitol building in honor of the recipients.

“We owe our existence to those who fought and died on the battlefield,” Weiner said. “To all of you who have served, we all thank you on this day and all year round.”

Tony Lana, founder and director of the Sunnyside Drum Corps, one of the last remaining drum corps in Queens, said he and his children, ages 5 to 19, were thrilled to participate in the parade.

“This is a wonderful event for us, and the kids understand what a patriotic event it is,” Lana said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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