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Cops, community council, honor vets

Cops and community members came out in force to salute the neighborhood’s veterans last week during a meeting aptly scheduled on the national holiday.

With the exception of a quick crime briefing by Captain George Mastrokastas, the commanding officer of the 61st Precinct, all council business was for the most part suspended last Wednesday so everyone could get into the spirit of Veterans’ Day, which acknowledges the sacrifices of soldiers and former soldiers who are still with us.

Throughout the night, Council President Yves Etienne brought up veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam as well as Desert Storm. All spoke about the importance of keeping U.S. veterans in their thoughts and hearts. Also remembered were NYPD officers currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All recommended that the best way to honor their sacrifices were to visit them at the local veterans’ hospitals or join community programs at the hospitals.

But it’s not just about making a veteran smile – it’s also about keeping American history alive as long as possible.

“[World War II veterans] are dying out at a rapid rate,” said longtime community council member Ed Eisenberg. “When we lose them, we lose part of our history, so we have to make sure they’re treated with as much respect we can muster.”

Cutting a sharp in his tan GI uniform (he said he served in the US Army at the tail end of the Korean War), Eisenberg said that throughout the day complete strangers had walked up to him on the street, thanking him for his service – which is what one is asked to do on Veterans’ Day.

Wednesday’s meeting, he said, “was a way for our precinct to thank everybody who served.”

Etienne said that the 61st Precinct council meeting landed on Veterans Day by sheer luck.

Yet, despite some discussion of rescheduling the meeting, it was decided to instead turn it into a salute to neighborhood veterans.

“They’ve done so much for us and we wanted them to get a chance to speak to our members,” he said. “They [the veterans] responded positively. They felt proud speaking to us – just as proud as we felt listening to them.”

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