Army officers salute teens

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U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Albany Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Michael Coleman recognizes Naugatuck teens, from left, Richard Brito, Jensen Mezzio and Nick Ryan Aug. 6 at the Naugatuck Senior Center for their service work at the center this summer. –LUKE MARSHALL
U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Albany Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Michael Coleman recognizes Naugatuck teens, from left, Richard Brito, Jensen Mezzio and Nick Ryan Aug. 6 at the Naugatuck Senior Center for their service work at the center this summer. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Three young men were recognized by the U.S. Army for their work with the Naugatuck Senior Center.

Nick Ryan and Jensen Mezzio, both 15, attend Naugatuck High School, where they have to log 200 hours of volunteer time to graduate.

They began volunteering at the senior center in June, shortly after school let out for the summer. They’ve already volunteered for more than 100 hours.

Richard Brito, 17, is currently working at the senior center through the New Opportunity’s Youth Employment Program. The program helps Waterbury and Naugatuck youth find employment for the summer.

Brito said after his workday is done he sticks around the senior center to volunteer his time.

Ryan and Mezzio said they chose to volunteer at the senior center because they thought it would be a fun way to complete their necessary volunteer hours. Brito said he chose the senior center because he thought it would be a unique job.

“I was willing to try a new experience,” Brito said. “I’ve learned a lot from the seniors.”

Naugatuck Senior Center member Carol Butler, left, presents Sgt. Nathan De Baca, center, and Sgt. Curtiss Leilich with blankets Aug. 6 at the center she made from the uniform pants the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Waterbury donated. Helping to hold the blankets are Naugatuck residents, from left, Jensen Mezzio, Nick Ryan and Richard Brito. –LUKE MARSHALL
Naugatuck Senior Center member Carol Butler, left, presents Sgt. Nathan De Baca, center, and Sgt. Curtiss Leilich with blankets Aug. 6 at the center she made from the uniform pants the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Waterbury donated. Helping to hold the blankets are Naugatuck residents, from left, Jensen Mezzio, Nick Ryan and Richard Brito. –LUKE MARSHALL

The U.S. Army’s Waterbury recruiting office works closely with the senior center, with officers often volunteering their time, explained Harvey Frydman, director of the senior center. When the officers heard how much the teens have been volunteering, they wanted to officially recognize their service, he said.

On Tuesday Lt. Col. Michael Coleman, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion in Albany, N.Y., presented each of the youth with the U.S. Army Youth Volunteer Award.

Coleman told the teens they could have simply gotten summer jobs but decided to volunteer their time instead and that said a lot about them.

Sgt. Nathan C. De Baca and Sgt. Curtiss Leilich of the recruiting office in Waterbury were on hand for the ceremony. Following the ceremony, Carol Butler, a member of the center, presented the soldiers with two blankets she made. The blankets were made out of uniform pants the recruiting office had donated to the senior center for material.