Pat Toro Jr., former president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 in Queens, was diagnosed with cancer that affects the bone marrow. The organization is holding a blood drive for him on April 15 from 12 to 5 p.m. at their Whitestone headquarters, 19-12 149th street.
Myelodysplastic syndrome, the form of cancer Toro was diagnosed with six months ago, is linked to the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
“We look out for each other,” said Paul Narson, current VVA Chapter 32 president, “because no one looked out for us when we came home.”
After undergoing chemotherapy for several months, Toro still requires about three blood transfusions a week.
VVA Chapter 32 needs 10 more people to honor the commitment they made to Community Blood Services. The agreement is that the drive will bring in 40 donors of any blood type and the blood bank will supply Toro’s hospital with the type he needs.
Despite the rapid approach of April 15, VVA Chapter 32 has not given up on meeting the 40-person quota. Like Toro, the organization is faithful to the commitments it makes.
Until he moved upstate a few years ago, Toro was a lifelong Queens resident. After attending Aviation High School in Long Island City he served in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corps.
In His post-military life, Toro was a police officer for New York City and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
During Toro’s decade-long stint as VVA Chapter 32 president he was instrumental in bringing the Moving Wall, a replica of the Washington D.C. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, to Queens.
It wasn’t only living veterans Toro looked out for. He also made it possible for VVA Chapter 32 to claim responsibility for indigent veterans and bury them in military cemeteries. To date the chapter has buried 89 veterans who otherwise would have wound up at Potters Field.
In recent years Toro was director-at-large of the Vietnam Veterans of America National Board of Directors and its Government Affairs, Minority Affairs and Veterans Benefits committees.
He was inducted into the state Senate Veterans Hall of Fame in 2006.
“He was a dynamic leader,” said Paul Feddern, Chapter 32 vice president. “He made the organization what it is today, the most recognized veterans organization in the city.”
Because of all he’s done for others, VVA Chapter 32 will not let him down.
“He’s a brother,” Narson said. “We are a brotherhood.”
VVA Chapter 32 asks that people RSVP to the event by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling Paul Narson at (631) 897-3269. Donors must be healthy, at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds.