One Queens community paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War -- it lost more people in combat than any other zipcode in the country. But now local veterans groups are struggling to keep their doors open. NY1's Clodagh McGowan filed the following report:
In Woodside, a monument ensures no one will forget the Vietnam War and the 28 local men who died fighting in it.
Michael Smith says the Woodside zipcode, 11377, had more casualities in Vietnam than any other postal code in the nation.
Smith was drafted and served a year in Vietnam. Now, he's the senior vice commander at the John V. Daniels Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.
It's just down the block from a playground named after one of those 28 brave men, Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan, a Marine who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the military's highest decoration, for his life-saving actions in Vietnam.
Smith says a former member of the post, Sergeant Robert O'Malley, was the first living Marine to receive the medal of honor.
"Oddly enough, they went to kindergarten at the same time. They were in the same class," Smith said. "That's like a one in 5 million that'll happen."
But even in a neighborhood home to two men presented with the nation's highest commendation, a community that lost so many in Vietnam, the local VFW posts are struggling to keep their doors open.
"Young kids coming out of the service, they really don't want to join anything, and old membership is dying off," Smith said.
Smith believes the local VFW post, which began in 1933, has about a year left before dwindling membership will force it to close for good.
A nearby American Legion post in the Blissville section of Long Island City shut down last year. And while flags are rising at the Catholic War Veterans post, membership is dwindling there, too.
"Once in a while, we'll get a new member to join, and then two unfortunately pass away," said Robert Carr, first vice commander of Catholic War Veterans Post 870. "It's like one step forward, two steps backwards."
Carr says at one point, this was the largest post in Queens, with 250 active members. Now, they're down to about 50 members.
With another Memorial Day approaching, both Smith and Carr hope younger veterans will join the VFW posts to guarantee this neighborhood's storied history of military service and sacrifice remains in focus.