BRISTOL-Men and women who have served or continue to serve in the U.S. military were honored Saturday at West Bristol School for Veterans Day.
“We’re simply here to honor veterans,” David Carello, retired first sergeant of the U.S. Army and vice-chairman of the Veterans Council, said.
Former Miss Forestville and teen Miss Bristol, Molly Westfall, began the service by singing the national anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by Cub Scout Pack 433.
“The Veterans event is one I look forward to every year because it’s a great representation of what the community stands for,” Mayor-elect Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said.
Zoppo-Sassu’s husband and both of her grandfathers are veterans, and her son enlisted in service this year.
Army Sgt. First Class John Phelan was the guest speaker at the ceremony.
Phelan is a Bristol native and graduated from Bristol Eastern High School in 1999. After graduating college in 2003 he joined the Connecticut Army National Guard and deployed to Afghanistan in 2006-2007.
Wanting to serve his country more, he volunteered to join the Special Forces and earned his Green Beret in 2011.
Phelan was deployed again in 2012 and 2013 to Afghanistan. He recently returned from his fourth combat deployment to Afghanistan with the 19th Special Forces Group and is being recommended for a Bronze Star for Valor, for his actions fighting ISIS in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province in June.
As a 14-year veteran, Phelan said when people thank him for his service he instead wants to say, “No, thank you America.”
“(Serving in the army) has given me purpose and meaning to life that I didn’t have prior to serving,” Phelan said.
He added that after he returned to America, the person who took over his position in Afghanistan was killed.
“That could have been me less than 45 days ago,” Phelan said.
Phelan said when people ask why veterans enlisted, or why current military members continue to re-enlist, he said for him it’s for the love of America.
“There is no greater honor than to have served my country,” Phelan said. “I am thankful for this country for giving me reason to fight and defend.”
Following his speech, students at the Reach for the Stars Academy of Dance performed to the song “God Bless the USA.” The service ended with a reading of names of Bristol residents that lost their lives in war and a salute.
“Keep a lingering thought for those that continue to fight and served,” Carello said.
Angie DeRosa can be reached at 860-801-5063 or aderosa@centralctcommunications. Follow her on Twitter at @ADeRosaNBH