Medals carry different meanings for vets

Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner Sean Connolly, right, pins a Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal on veteran Patrick O’Neill July 28 during a ceremony at the American Legion Post 17 hall in Naugatuck. –LUKE MARSHALL

Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner Sean Connolly, right, pins a Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal on veteran Patrick O’Neill July 28 during a ceremony at the American Legion Post 17 hall in Naugatuck. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — For some veterans it was another medal to proudly wear. For others it was recognition that was long overdue.

Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner Sean Connolly awarded Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medals to area veterans during a July 28 ceremony at the American Legion Post 17 hall.

The medal, which was introduced in 2005, recognizes veterans who lived in Connecticut and served in any branch of the military during wartime.

Post 17 Commander Ron Fischer said the ceremony was important because it highlighted and honored the service of the veterans.

“Especially the Vietnam veterans,” Fischer said. “They were kind of dissed for some time. They never did get recognized. Now things have changed, people are starting to recognize the veterans. It makes them feel proud that they are being acknowledged and it makes us feel good to acknowledge them.”

That sentiment was echoed by Vietnam War veteran Robert Boudreau, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1966 to 1967.

“It’s about time. We never got nothing out of that war. Maybe I am bitter about it, but 90 percent of the guys are bitter about the war,” Boudreau said.

Dominic DePiano III, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967 to 1971, said he was honored to receive the medal.

“It makes you feel kind of special that you’re acknowledged for your service time. I just did what I thought was right and went into the military as a volunteer and did four years. I was one of the lucky ones and was not sent to Vietnam. I had friends that died over there,” DePiano said.

State Sen. Joseph Crisco, Jr., D-Woodbridge, said each medal is important.

Iluminada Ruiz, center, speaks with state Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, left, as Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner Sean Connolly pins the Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal on her shirt July 28 during a ceremony at the American Legion Post 17 hall in Naugatuck. –LUKE MARSHALL

Veteran Iluminada Ruiz, center, speaks with state Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, left, as Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner Sean Connolly pins the Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal on her shirt July 28 during a ceremony at the American Legion Post 17 hall in Naugatuck. –LUKE MARSHALL

“Every medal tells a story, including the medal you are receiving today,” Crisco said. “The medal you are receiving today tells your story of sacrifice, of courage, of citizenship, of patriotism, and of service. This is your story, that you have done good for your country and your countrymen.”

Crisco along with state Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, and state representatives Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, and David Labriola, R-Oxford, were on hand to award the medals

The medals were handed out to living veterans and posthumously.

The medal meant something different to each veteran. Vietnam War veteran Jim Woermer, who served in the U.S. Army from 1960 through 1963, said he appreciated receiving the medal in part because it was one he could display.

“It’s one of the few medals I can wear because the stuff I did was all classified,” Woermer said.

The following veterans were awarded Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medals: Nicholas Aprea, Philip Arcuri, Robert Boudreau, Carlos Dacruz, Dominic DePiano III, Martin Gerics, George Harper, William Hessberger, Jody Lawlor, Americo Lizasuain, Richard Mangan, Robert Moore, Charles Noonan, Patrick O’Neill, Frank Overlock, Marin Petersen, Enrique Ruiz, Iluminada Ruiz, Patrick Scully, Eugene Seeley, John Shumak, Carl Taggett, Angelo Torres, Brian Vaugh, Patrick Wagner, Donald Wagner and James Woermer.