Bronx Chamber salutes heroic veterans

The New Bronx Chamber of Commerce honored (l-r) Jeans Oscar Cruz, Cassandra Salahuddin, and Joe Mondello for their service to the cause of freedom on Wednesday, November 12. Photo by Victor Chu

In a salute to three great Americans and Bronxites who valiantly served their country in past and present conflicts, the Bronx Chamber of Commerce held a Veterans Recognition Luncheon at F&J Pine Restaurant at 1913 Bronxdale Avenue.

The ceremony, held on Veterans Day on Wednesday, November 12, included a stirring address about the important sacrifices America’s heroes make to the cause of freedom both at home and abroad to hundreds of event attendees.

The three honorees were Jeans Oscar Cruz whose Army unit assisted in the capture of Saddam Hussein, Cassandra Salahuddin who defended Black Hawk Down in Somalia in 1993, and Joe Mondello, a local veteran and businessman who serves as chairman of Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr.’s Veterans Advisory Committee.

“Regardless of what we think politically about whether we want to be here or there, we all believe that we have the very best military; we know that they and their families are making tremendous sacrifices – some paying the ultimate price,” Congressman Crowley said.

“On my frequent trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, I have had the opportunity to witness the ‘soft power’ of the Unites States around the world,” Crowley added. “Seeing the Army Corps of Engineers interact with locals in Afghanistan while building a bridge was one of my greatest privileges in serving in the House.”

Both New Bronx Chamber of Commerce CEO Lenny Caro and president Joe Kelleher praised the enormous sacrifices of veterans, and the focus of the event was to honor all of America’s heroes.

“We probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, so Bronx businesses salutes veterans,” Caro said.

The honorees said that while they all appreciate being recognized, they feel that the real honor should go to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

“I am very grateful to be here and be honored and I appreciate it a lot,” Cruz said. “But on the other hand, the mothers and fathers and uncles and aunts whose children are not around should really be honored.”

Other honorees remembered grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters who also were in the military, and were proud that they could continue in the tradition.

“It struck me about two years into my service that I was continuing in a long line that my grandfather, father, husband, and brother all followed,” honoree Salahuddin stated. “I was born on an Army base in Japan, and my dad was a soldier, but my choice was my own. I was the first woman in our family in the military, and that makes me proud.”

Mondelloho has spent the last 10 years making sure that the flag is displayed in area schools throughout the Bronx, spoke of Carrion’s commitment to veterans.

“We are having our third ‘Veteran’s Appreciation Day’ in May, in conjunction with the borough president and the VA. It is open to all military families and veterans,” Mondello said.

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