Post office named for New York City fallen Soldier
August 17, 2012
BRONX, N.Y. - Everyone who walks through the doors of a Parkchester post office will see a plaque on the wall and wonder who was Pvt. Isaac Cortes.
"They'll find out he was a hero. That he's someone who cared about Americans so much, people he would never meet, that he gave (his) life for them," said New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
To assure his life and sacrifice will never be forgotten, the U.S. Post Office at 1449 West Ave. was named for Cortes in a rededication ceremony Aug. 16.
In 2010, New York Rep. Joseph Crowley introduced legislation to name the post office for him, and after New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand carried the senate version of the bill, in June 2012 President Barack Obama signed the bill to make it official.
Cortes was a 10th Mountain Division Soldier who was sworn into the Army at Fort Hamilton in January 2007 and 10 months later was killed by a roadside bomb in Amerli, Iraq, along with fellow Soldier Spc. Benjamin J. Garrison of Houston, Texas. Cortes was a diehard Yankees fan and worked security at the stadium before joining the Army. His ultimate goal was to be a New York City police officer, so he joined the Army to get experience and training.
"Isaac was not only a Soldier, he was a father (figure), brother, son and friend," said Emily Toro, Cortes' mother.
Sgt. Stephan Striewing, a Soldier in Isaac's unit, learned of his death through a phone call from a medic while he was home on leave in 2007.
"He was just a nice guy. I'd rather it be me than them (Cortes and other friends he's lost). It's awesome that they're doing this for him, and I'm glad I got to come down. I'll never forget him," Striewing said.
Crowley, Quinn, Fort Hamilton Garrison Commander Col. Eluyn Ginés and Command Sgt. Major Hector Prince, and four Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum all attended the rededication to remember Cortes.
Cortes' brother, Christopher, traveled on his motorcycle from Pennsylvania to join his mother Emily Toro and his father Isaias Cortes and many other family and friends to honor Isaac.
Veterans supporters including representatives from the United War Veterans Council, Step Into Their Boots, Gold Star Families and the Patriot Guard turned out in large numbers to witness the dedication.
"I didn't know Isaac; I wish I had. He sounds like exactly the kind of person who is a true New Yorker, such a Yankees fan, he worked there, wanted to be a member of the NYPD. I'm not at all surprised as I learn more about Isaac today that he was such a hero, that he was someone who wanted to protect his city and that he was somebody who wanted protect his country," Quinn said.
Since her son's death, Emily has become an activist for veterans and families.
"Emily, I hope you know every parade you march in, every city council ceremony you go to, you are lifting people up, giving people hope. You're telling people that that when horrible things happen to them, they can get through it because of the amazing power of your example. Thank you so much, and I know Isaac is so very proud of how you're carrying on," Quinn said.
Emily and Isaias were given the "red line" of the bill framed with the pen the president used to sign it and a framed flag that was flown over ground zero by veterans from Columbia University.
"The strength of our nation is our Army. And the strength of our Army is our Soldiers--like Private Cortes. And the strength of our Soldiers is their Families--like Emily Toro--this combination is what makes us today Army Strong," Ginés said.
"We would love nothing more than to bring Isaac back, but we can't do that. At least this will serve as a reminder of his service and sacrifice to all who enter," Crowley said.