Private First Class Luke Gasparre, a soldier in the U.S. Army during World War II, fought on the German front as a member of the 82nd Infantry Division. He was wounded in action, and was awarded both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.
After completing his military service, he returned home to Astoria and worked at the U.S. Post Office for 34 years. This past September, he finished his 54th year as an usher for the New York Mets.
“We must never forget all the veterans and their families, and must support them by providing the necessary services to repay them in some small way for their sacrifice,” Gasparre said. “We must keep them in our thoughts and prayers for protecting us from those who wish to harm us and endanger our way of life.”
In 2016, Gasparre was inducted to the New York State Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame by State Senator Michael Gianaris. He said the recognition proves that he has done “everything the right way in life.”
“Do the right thing, you’ll be recognized by everyone,” Gasparre said.
The ceremony also honored Staff Sergeant Steven D. Epps, who served for nine years in the U.S. Air Force. He first served in Okinawa, Japan, and was later deployed for two stints during the Vietnam War, first in 1966 and again in 1970.
After returning home, Epps was active in the local veterans community. He is a past commander and member of the VFW Post 1896 Proctor Hopson, Disabled American Veterans Post 92 and Rosedale Laurelton Post 483 of the American Legion.
Epps, a man of few words, looked out to his fellow veterans during the ceremony and said, “you should be here too.”
“It’s been an honor to serve,” he said. “All I can say is thank you.”
The next honoree was Lieutenant Sarah Bradwisch, who served for 12 years as a Nurse Corps officer with the U.S. Navy. Bradwisch is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield.
Her numerous accolades include the Navy Achievement Medal, the Overseas Medal and the National Defense Medal. Bradwisch broke barriers as the first woman to serve on the USS Chandler.
After her years in service, Bradwisch became a professor at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, where she teaches registered nurses from multicultural backgrounds. As a Jonas Scholar at Molloy College, she is completing her dissertation on female veterans transitioning to post-active duty careers in the health care field.
Bradwisch said it’s important to honor the service of all heroes and sheroes.
“I look forward to the work I’m completing at Molloy College, and illuminating and shedding light on the needs of all veterans,” she said, “and the female veterans, who are now the fastest growing population in the veteran community.”
The annual ceremony was hosted by Borough President Melinda Katz. She recalled seeing friends being drafted to the Vietnam War, and not being honored when they came home.
“I am thankful that we honor now everyone who comes home and have fought for our country,” she said.
Katz was joined by State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and Congressman Gregory Meeks. The congressman said his father served in the U.S. Army, so he understands that the bonds they create are never broken.
“It is a bond that we will never forget,” Meeks said.