John DeMello scans through certificates for Korean War Veterans that he has to distribute at the American Legion Post 72 in Southington, Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. DeMello, a past commander of the post, recieved about 700 certificates of appreciation for veteran's service to distribute to veterans commemorating the 60th anniversary of the armistice in Korea. | Christopher Zajac / Record-Journal
November 12, 2013 10:52AM
By Jesse Buchanan
SOUTHINGTON — Certificates from the Department of Defense honoring hundreds of Korean War veterans for their service are awaiting those veterans at American Legion Post 72.
In observance of the 60th anniversary of the conflict, which ended with an armistice in 1953, the Defense Department printed certificates for those who served from 1950 to 1955. John DeMello, a past commander of the American Legion post, said he and others sent the names of as many Southington Korean War veterans as they could find to Washington and received back about 600 certificates to distribute.
DeMello said the certificates, printed with a veteran’s name or his family’s name if deceased, will be handed out after the Veterans Day ceremony today in front of the American Legion. Some have already been distributed, mostly to those Korean War veterans who are members of the legion.
Others will be distributed later by Legion members or given to veterans who can pick them up at the post. The certificates, enclosed in a blue cover, thank the veteran.
“I wish there was a way to have a nice ceremony, but you can’t. There’s too many of them,” DeMello said. “There’s still many more that moved into Southington that we don’t know about.”
For veterans of what’s known as the Forgotten War, the certificates are appreciated and sometimes come as a surprise.
“They’re happy. They’re very happy,” DeMello said. “The Department of Defense is recognizing, after 60 years, those veterans who served in that war.”
Igino Torone, an Air Force veteran who served during the Korean War years, appreciated getting the certificate and said other veterans feel similarly.
“A lot of those guys you might call unsung heroes,” Torone said. “To be appreciated, I’m sure it feels good.”
He also praised DeMello’s work for veterans in town.
“John is always up to something,” Torone said.
Using town records and information held by the post, DeMello and others compiled a list of names for the Department of Defense and had the certificates printed. Some Korean War veterans were only discovered after the department stopped printing certificates in late September, however.
The Department of Defense mailed certificates to those veterans DeMello found who live out of town.
The effort to identify hundreds of Korean War veterans was a large task and much of the work was done by DeMello, said past commander Bob Klezun.
“It was an enormous undertaking,” he said. “John was the catalyst.”
“It takes a whole bunch of people to make something happen,” DeMello said.