BRISTOL - The Bristol Veterans Council honored 23 high school students preparing to enter the military Friday at their annual salute dinner, commending their bravery in putting their lives on the line to protect the freedoms of others.
The enlistees and their families gathered at Nuchies as local veterans praised them for their honorable decision. They were presented with a plaque and citation from the general assembly and a red, white and blue tassel to wear with their graduation caps.
“I decided I wanted to do my share to help out,” said Vincent Penisse, who will be entering the U.S. Navy. “I love boats, I love the ocean and I love my country.”
Al Terzi, an interpreter for the government during the Korean War, was the emcee. He, along with Former Mayor Art Ward, chair of the Bristol Veterans Council, and Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu gave opening remarks.
“We are very proud of you for stepping up in service to your state and to your country,” said Ward. “We are here to support you and we appreciate everything you are doing and everything you are going to do. Your service will bring out the best in you.”
“It’s a little bitter sweet to be here,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “Last year I was here as a parent and my son Zachary is in Afghanistan right now. It’s a hard thing to do but I’m very proud of him every day. We are here tonight for a great cause. At a time when our country is so polarized over politics we can all continue to agree about how important it is to support our troops.”
Terzi told the enlistees how proud of them he is. He told them about how his service shaped the course of his own life.
“I was 18 and in my first year of college - I ran out of money because I was using my own money; my parents had just divorced,” said Terzi. “Back then in 1961 they had a draft so I decided to get my service obligation out of the way and join the Air Force.”
Terzi said that during basic training he was tested to see if he could learn a foreign language, which led to him being sent to Yale University to study Korean and Chinese. He listened to Korean Air Force pilots and what maneuvers they were performing and the capability of their airplanes. In high school he bad been a disc jockey and advanced his career by getting a job as a weatherman on his base.
In 1968, Terzi returned to Connecticut to be with his wife, who he met at Yale, and his children. His experience at the base helped him get his job at Channel 3. The rest is history.
“Take your service as it comes and remember you are taking care of America,” said Terzi. “You are protecting your brothers and sisters and grandparents. No matter what type of work you do, it is important. Give it your all and learn from it.”
Deacon Stanley Piotrowski later provided the invocation. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Tim Gamache of the Bristol Veterans Council and Blaise Tramazzo of the Bristol Choral Group sang The National Anthem.
Army National Guard Sergeant Nicole Knoll, an Afghanistan veteran and disabled veteran advocate and the event’s keynote speaker then shared her story.
“I entered active duty service in 2009 with the Connecticut Army National Guard and participated in One Station Unit Training as a Military Police soldier, graduating at Fort Leonard Wood taking up rank in the Military Police Corps,” she said. “My unit assignment led me to the 143rd MP Company who I proudly deployed to Afghanistan with in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“We were assigned to the Ghazni Province where I operated as lead mine roller driver and assisted with training local Afghanistan forces on law enforcement tactics. In addition, our squad led route reconnaissance missions and VIP escorts for our area of operation. Upon completing my tour, I was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and subsequently promoted to sergeant, performing as military police team leader training new soldiers on protocols in support of the homeland response force mission and imparting the experiences I had gathered from my deployment.”
“Post service my passion for military service and the veteran community empowered me to become an advocate for disabled veterans, representing them on their claims and appeals for service-connected disability compensation before the Department of Veterans Affairs,” she continued. “I specialize in cases pertaining to severe PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, Gulf War Syndrome and unemployability. These populations called to me more than any other because I felt uniquely qualified to be a voice for these veterans who found many others turning a cheek to them or not being willing to walk the long road beside them. As I continue to explore new ways to better the resources available to my brothers and sisters, I most recently partnered with a local nonprofit to deliver an equine therapy program for veterans in need of healing. Operation Warrior Horse is intended to be a new beginning for those willing to take the plunge and write themselves a new story beyond their military service.”
Community Awards were presented to the Main Street Community Foundation, Thomaston Savings Bank and Englert Family & Staff for their support.
Recruit awards were presented by Ward, Terzi, Gamache, Donna Dognin of the Veterans Strong Community Center, Pete Wininger of the Bristol Central High School, Marisa Calvi-Rogers of Bristol Eastern High School and Cary DuPont of St. Paul Catholic High School.
Eric Treschel, commander of the recruiting battalion, presided over the swearing-in ceremony.
Ward then provided closing remarks followed by a benediction from Brother Leonard Webster.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.