Citizen’s Awards a first for VFW Post 1946


NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck VFW Post 1946 will honor seven members of the borough community in September with its first Citizen’s Awards.

Awards will be given to a veteran, Naugatuck police officer, state police officer, firefighter, fire police volunteer, teacher, and emergency medical technician Sept. 17 at the Crystal Room, 98 School St. The event starts at 12 p.m. with a cocktail hour followed by a buffet at 1 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person. For more information or tickets, call Charles Barnsley at 203-233-2318 or Paul Miller at 203-723-4175.

EMT of the Year

Andrew Drake, an Oxford native who now lives in Naugatuck, started volunteering for the Oxford Ambulance Service when he was 15 years old and went on to become the chief engineer.

Drake was certified as an EMT in 2010 and started working at Naugatuck Ambulance in 2012.

“Andrew has been a dedicated employee who rarely takes any time off. He is proud of himself as being an EMS junkie, borderline workaholic and a hero to his sons. He lives to be a first responder, and every time he drives by a ‘priority one call’ he can count on his two young children. They are peering out the window in excitement to see the lights and sirens, knowing their daddy is going to save someone’s life,” his bio states.

Firefighter of the Year

Stephen Sousa’s public service started when he was 16 and joined the Naugatuck Volunteer Ambulance Corps as an observer. A year later, the Naugatuck native earned his emergency medical technician certification and volunteered with the company until 1990.

In 1994, Sousa joined the Naugatuck Volunteer Fire Company and the Naugatuck Volunteer Rescue Squad. That summer, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a law enforcement specialist and was assigned to the 366 Security Forces Squadron at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Mountain Home, Idaho, after basic training.

Sousa rejoined the Naugatuck Volunteer Fire Company in 1998 and volunteered until becoming a career firefighter for the Naugatuck Fire Department in 2001.

During his military and firefighting careers, Sousa earned enormous awards, including four unit citations from the fire department, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award With Valor.

Sousa was a member of the Connecticut S.A.R.T. Team, a volunteer team that responds to emergencies involving domestic animals throughout the state. He is a member of the VFW and a past commander of Post 1946.

Fire Police of the Year

John Deer, who grew up in Bridgeport, has an extensive volunteering resume that started at a young age. When he was 11 years old, Deer joined the Boy Scouts. As a junior leader, he volunteered to work with a scout troop in a Bridgeport Housing Project.

Over the years, Deer has volunteered with several organizations, including the Bridgeport Civil Defense Auxiliary Police, but scouting was never far from his life. He was an assistant scoutmaster for a troop in Stratford, and, while serving in the U.S. Army in the late 1960s, he was the scoutmaster for a troop on Fort Bliss in Texas. When he returned to Connecticut in 1971, he became scoutmaster of a troop in a Stratford housing project. He has held multiple positions in scouting and earned numerous awards.

After moving to Naugatuck in 1989, Deer decided to volunteer with the Naugatuck Fire Department as a fire police officer because “going to fire calls was a great way to learn his way around town,” his bio states.

As part of the fire police and to assist Naugatuck as an emergency communications operator, John volunteered and became a licensed amateur radio operator. With more than 25 years of service to Naugatuck, Deer is the most senior fire police officer in the Naugatuck Fire Police.

Police Officer of the Year

Brian Newman, who was born and raised Naugatuck, joined the Naugatuck Police Department in 1998 after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2012 and currently oversees the evening patrol shift.

Newman also volunteers his time with different organizations in the community. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Naugatuck Human Resources Development Agency for the last 10 years and assists HRD with its annual Christmas toy drive.

Over the last year, Newman worked with the Naugatuck Board of Education to improve emergency plans and preparedness initiatives. “These plans have redefined both how the police respond to events at our schools, as well as established lines of communication among the different entities within the town,” his bio states.

State Trooper of the Year

Trooper First Class Kelly Grant joined the Connecticut State Police in 2001 and has been assigned to the public information office for the past eight years.

Grant has lived in Naugatuck for over 40 years. Before joining the state police, she was an officer in the Naugatuck Police Department and was a volunteer EMT.

Grant started her state police career at Troop A in Southbury, and during her 16 years of service, she has also been assigned to the Southbury Resident State Trooper’s Office, State Police Training Academy as an instructor, the Governor’s Security Unit, and the Selections and Recruitment Unit.

Teacher of the Year

Lt. Col. Valerie Lofland, who retired from active duty in the Air Force in 2003 after nearly 25 years of service, is the senior aerospace science instructor for the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Naugatuck High School.

She teaches military science, history of aviation, global and regional studies, space exploration and flight.

Prior to taking the position at Naugatuck High in 2008, she was assigned with the Department of Defense and oversaw NATO enlargement initiatives in Germany. Her previous assignment was an international program manager at the Partnership for Peace Consortium in Germany, and she was responsible for assisting new NATO member countries as well as aspirant countries comply with rule of law standards, transparency in government and improving military training programs.

Veteran of the Year

After graduating from Naugatuck High School, Thomas Fitzgerald Jr. attended the University of Connecticut, where he was commissioned a second lieutenant in UConn’s ROTC program.

While working at a job on Wall Street in New York City, Fitzgerald was called up for active military duty. Fitzgerald attended artillery officers’ basic training in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, before volunteering for combat paratroop training at Fort Benning, Georgia.

He served 18 months during the Korean War, first assigned to the 969th Field Artillery Battalion near the de-militarized zone before being promoted to first lieutenant and re-assigned to general headquarters.

After he was discharged from active duty, Fitzgerald joined Bravo Detachment, 11th Special Forces, a reserve unit based in Tarrytown, N.Y., where he fulfilled his Army Reserve duty requirement.