BERLIN — Giving an overdue thanks for all the trauma those who served in Vietnam went through on the battlefield and upon returning home to a hostile country, Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz held a ceremony recognizing around 80 veterans who served in the war.
"I think we realized years too late that our country made a mistake in not saying thank you to you upon your return. And the Vietnam era is, for that reason, very painful and a very complicated time in our country's history. But you are an amazing, patriotic and resilient group of people that persevered through some of the most difficult combat ... and you came back, having survived all of that, raised very beautiful families, started very productive careers and participated in this community and contributed in so many ways to our beautiful state. So we have the opportunity to say an overdue, but emphatic thank you for everything that you did for our country," Bysiewicz said.
Held in the McGee Middle School auditorium on Sept. 9, the ceremony was her third visit for Berlin, part of a series where she is visiting municipalities across the state to pay homage to veterans of Vietnam, Korea and the Second World War, which her father served in. She was joined by local elected officials, including Deputy Mayor Brenden Luddy, state Rep. Catherine Abercrombie and state Sen. Gennaro Bizzarro, as well as Thomas Saadi, the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs.
One by one, Bysiewicz presented each veteran was with a citation thanking them for their service and Saadi awarded them a pin.
After learning of the insults and attacks his own cousin faced after returning from Vietnam, Saadi said he has seen the veterans of that war become a driving force to make sure today’s veterans do not face what they went through 50 years ago. He still keeps the 7th Cavalry Regiment patch his cousin gave to him in his office today to remind him of his own obligation to support all veterans.
"To our Vietnam and Vietnam-era veterans, whether you served in country or in support of theater operations, or somewhere around the globe, you served. You raised your right hand and took that solemn oath to protect and defend this nation...” he said. “I thank you for your service, for standing up for your brother and sister veterans after you returned home to ensure that today, this country respects, thanks and supports all of our veterans and members of our military.”
During an open microphone where veterans were invited to share some of their stories, Henry Stefanowicz said he was excited for the ceremony as a chance to meet more of his “blood brothers,” fellow Berlin natives who he did not know he shared this bond with.
He encouraged all those in attendance to continue ensuring that service members continue receiving the support they deserve by giving to Hero Boxes, a Berlin nonprofit which sends boxes of supplies to soldiers serving in the Middle East. Its annual box packing event is scheduled to take place on Nov. 9 at the New Britain Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
"Come down and join us. Help us, be part of it and trust me, if you come on Nov. 9, you will leave with such a good feeling in your heart and soul you will be back every year after that," he said. "We have one more mission to complete.”