BRISTOL â€“ Local veteran, veteransâ€™ advocate and U.S. Army Reservist Patrick Nelligan, 55, was recently inducted into the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame was established in November 2005 to raise awareness about the achievements and contributions Connecticut veterans have made following their service in uniform. Nelligan was among 10 Connecticut veterans inducted into the Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Legislative Office Building on Dec. 6.
â€śIt was a great, well-planned event and it was very special for everyone there including the inductees,â€ť said Nelligan.
According to a statement from local legislators, Nelligan served on active duty and reserve status for more than 37 consecutive years. He is Command Chief Warrant Officer for the Army Reserve Medical Command. As an employee of the Veterans Healthcare Administration, Nelligan received a Connecticut VA Kindness Award for his involvement with a disabled veteran who was struggling to get his rehabilitation equipment operating properly.
â€śI entered into the service three weeks after graduating from Bristol Central High School,â€ť said Nelligan. â€śAt the time, I was going in fully intending to do my two years and get money for college. When I went in, I had no idea that I would still have one year in the reserves. I ended up going to Colorado where I had a job fixing medical equipment and I came to really like my job and I ended up dedicating my adult life to it. In May, I will have been in the Army and Army Reserve for 38 years. Along the way, I had to figure out a lot for myself. Nobody really took me under their wing. So, when there was an obstacle that I overcame, I decided that I wanted to pay it forward. I must have helped out enough people over the years where somebody appreciated it enough that they decided to nominate me.â€ť
Nelligan has also created numerous community events to honor veterans in Bristol, including the Memorial Day Weekend Commemoration, which from 2004 to 2011 drew thousands to Memorial Boulevard for an event with generals, Meal of Honor recipients, jet planes and other military vehicles.
â€śEverybody who went there left feeling great pride in being veterans and in the boulevard,â€ť said Nelligan.
Nelligan is also the original founder of the annual Salute Dinner. The Salute Dinner is the second-longest recognition dinner in the country, and has honored more than 200 high school seniors as they prepare to begin their active service.
â€śWe found out about the original Salute Dinner in Pennsylvania and brought it to the attention of a now deceased army reserve ambassador,â€ť said Nelligan. â€śWe brought it to Bristol and worked with the Veterans Council and it was a slam dunk. Now, our Salute Dinner is one of the biggest in the state. We also honor students from Harwinton, Burlington and Wolcott who will be entering the service. Itâ€™s a great event for veterans to get to know those who are just entering the military.â€ť
Nelligan said those who do decide to enter the military should not just see their service as a means to an end.
â€śYour service will distinguish you from all of your peers that did not serve,â€ť he said. â€śYou will go out and form bonds, have experiences and develop a sense of pride that you couldnâ€™t get any other way.â€ť
Sen. Henri Martin, Rep. Cara Pavalock-Dâ€™Amato, and Rep. Whit Betts were among those who attended the ceremony to honor Nelligan. The local legislators praised him for his contributions.
Martin said he is proud to see â€śone of Bristolâ€™s ownâ€ť receive the prestigious honor.
â€śHe has dedicated his life to serving our country and to serving our community,â€ť he said. â€śWe join with Bristol and the entire state in saying congratulations on this outstanding achievement.â€ť
Betts said he could not think of anyone more deserving to receive the award.
â€śIt says an awful lot about him,â€ť he said. â€śI know that he will continue to dedicate himself to the community. He has done so much for veterans; he really cares about them and goes all-out for them. He is an extremely effective advocate.â€ť
Pavalock said the Salute Dinner is one of the favorite community events Nelligan started.
â€śItâ€™s so important to support our young men and women who are going off to serve,â€ť she said. â€śThe Salute Dinner is just one example of the great things that Patrick has done over the years.â€ť
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.