BEACON FALLS — Veterans Day isn’t just another day off from school, said Bruce Carlson, commander of the Beacon Falls American Legion Post.
“We’re trying to bring the community back involved with our ceremonies and to let the kids know a little history. We start out with the youngest age in the Cub Scouts and try to get as much participation as possible with the high school,” Carlson said.
Boy Scout troop 104 participated in the ceremony. Chris Zmuda, a member of the troop, played “Taps” on his father’s trumpet.
He said the ceremony made him think about what the day means.
“I come out of my way to come here. I’d probably be home doing homework or something, but I came here to really think and meet these people,” Zmuda said.
Beacon Falls First Selectman Susan Cable urged the Boy Scouts to think about what veterans have done for them.
“To the youth out there, learn to appreciate it. Learn to appreciate the beauty around you, the safeness around you, thanks to all the veterans and the people who have fought for our country and continue to fight for our country and fight for our liberty,” Cable said.
The day was especially emotional for Paul Drabicki, whose father, WWII veteran Chester “Benny” Drabicki, passed away a few weeks ago.
“It was very touching,” Drabicki said.
Drabicki used to attend the Beacon Falls Veterans Day ceremony with his father. He said he remembered when only a dozen people showed up. This year, there were about 50.
Frank Semplenski also said that he was thinking of “Benny.”
“I’m very glad everyone showed up,” he said. He credited Carlson with the increased attendance.
Naugatuck teen to join Navy, follow in family’s tradition
Austin Seatena, 16, of Naugatuck, plans to join the Navy next year, but on Thursday, he attended the Naugatuck Veterans Day ceremony on the Green to honor his two brothers, who served in Iraq, and his uncle, who was an army staff sergeant for 26 years.
Seatena said Veterans Day honors living veterans in addition to those who have passed away.
Seatena is one of 182 members of the Naugatuck Air force Junior ROTC, most of which marched in the parade on Thursday along with veterans, the Naugatuck High School marching band, and local elected officials.
The Junior ROTC is a great program, according to Stanley W. Borusiewicz, Jr., chairman of the Naugatuck Veterans Council, which organized the event.
“It was pretty neat to see all the kids wearing the uniform and at least thinking about joining the military. We definitely need that out there,” Borusiewicz said.
He said we need to support those kids when they do join the military and when they come back home to help get them back on their feet. Naugatuck has veterans groups with have service officers and people to help guide new veterans through their readjustment back into civilian life.
“The biggest thing is that a lot of the troops coming back don’t realize that they are veterans yet. They think they’re not old enough, or some of them don’t think they’ve seen enough, but they’re all veterans,” said Borusiewicz.
Robert Genovese, the keynote speaker at the event.
“The youth of this country need to know what veterans are all about and what they might face some day,” he said.
The crowd was larger than it has been in past years, according to Borusiewicz.
“Hopefully, people are starting to realize the troops we have out there,” he said.
The beautiful weather may also have contributed to the larger-than-usual crowd. Because of the economy some of the Vietnam veterans who normally go to Washington, D.C., stayed in Naugatuck this year, Borusiewicz noted.
Borusiewicz said Naugatuck is a very patriotic town which has always supported its troops.
Connecticut ranks third in the number of people who go into the military.
In terms of percent of the population joining the military, “Naugatuck is way up there,” Borusiewicz said.
Mel Stimmel, a veteran of the 101st Airborne, attended the ceremony with his father, a World War II veteran. He said veterans appreciate the support they feel on Veterans Day.
“It rings a bell in our souls that people who aren’t veterans don’t appreciate,” he said.