Remembering the Veterans of Astoria
Happy Veterans Day
The origins of Veteran’s Day began in 1919 when, in November of that year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” President Wilson also proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day, beginning at 11am, the time the treaty was signed after World War 1.
In 1918, Sergeant Wilbur E. Colyer was the first and youngest Queens resident to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was born in Brooklyn but later moved to South Ozone Park. Colyer enlisted in the United States Army and served as a member of Company A of the 1st Engineers, 1st Division, during World War I (1914-1918). Sergeant Colyer posthumously won the Medal of Honor at the age of seventeen for volunteering, along with two other soldiers, to locate machine-gun nests.
Colyer became surrounded by machine-gun nests. Colyer killed the gunner of one nest with a grenade that he had captured from an enemy soldier and then turned the German machine gun on the other nests. In his valor, Colyer disabled all other German positions before returning to his platoon, freeing his company from heavy fire. Colyer was killed in action on October 10, 1918, while on maneuvers near Verdun, France. In his valor, Colyer disabled all other German positions before returning to his platoon, freeing his company from heavy fire. Colyer was killed in action on October 10, 1918, while on maneuvers near Verdun, France.
Queens has experienced loss through every single war from the Revolutionary War through operations in Afghanistan today. One recent loss to the Astoria community was that of World War II veteran Luke Gasparre. Born in Astoria in 1924, he proudly enlisted in the US Army in 1943. Only 18 years old, he trained to become a soldier and was assigned to the ACORN Division, an infantry division tasked with breaking through German lines in Germany. Gaspare bravely fought in the Battle of the Bulge, which was the highest causality operation by the end of World War II.
On a freezing winter night, while trying to avoid detection from the Nazis, Gasparre suffered a gunshot wound to his right hand but was able to safely return to his base without further injuries. Gasparre was awarded the French Purple Heart, which he received for his bravery and courage in the face of danger and in recognition of his battle injuries. In addition, Gasparre was a recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He later passed away in February 2020, at the age of 95, after a long, fulfilling (and brave) life.
In the mid-1950s, President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day. Happy Veterans Day to all those who serve.