Pat Toro, Jr., the former president of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 32 in Queens and local law enforcement officer, lost a nearly year-long battle with Myelodysplastic syndrome last Thursday, a cancer found linked to the use of Agent Orange that affects the bone marrow that later led to leukemia. He was 65.
After service in the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1970 as a U.S. Marine, Toro returned home to serve as a correction and police officer and later became a criminal investigator for the Port Authority.
It was then when Toro began his focus on serving his fellow veterans. For more than 10 years he led VVA 32 until 2008, later taking on his most recent role as the New York State Southern District VVA and the Director at VVA National Board of Directors and its Government Affairs.
While president of the local chapter, Toro was instrumental in starting a program to give former veterans who died indigent proper burials with full honors at Calverton National Cemetery.
Current VVA Chapter 32 president Paul Narson has been a member of the group since 1989 and said he learned everything he knew about running the organization from Toro.
“Pat helped me with respect, honor, duty and our country, and he was always there to answer any questions I had,” Narson said. “He was a tough leader, he liked to do things his way and he liked to do them fast and quick.”
Borough President Melinda Katz released a statement following his passing to also honor his life and his battle for the veterans of Queens.
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Pat Toro,” Katz said. “A Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, Pat served his country with courage and valor. It was an honor to have known Pat Toro, and I can say with certainty that he will be remembered as a leader, a humanitarian, and an American hero.”
Toro is survived by his wife Evelyn, son Michael, daughter Marie and his grandson.
His will be interred at Calverton National Cemetery.