BRISTOL - The Bristol Veterans Council will salute high school students preparing to enter the military May 19 at the annual Salute Dinner at Nuchie’s.
Doors will open at 4:30 p.m. and the main proceedings will begin at 5 p.m. at the restaurant at 164 Central St. The dinner is intended to honor the young men and women graduating from area schools for their decision to serve their country.
Al Terzi, an Air Force intelligence veteran, will emcee the event this year as he has done in many years past.
This year’s guest speaker is Michael Heimbach of ESPN, a U.S. Army veteran who later served in the FBI for 20 years. He is currently the vice president of global security and facilities operations at ESPN and is the father of a currently serving marine. Russ Trudel, chair of the Bristol Veterans Council, said that he is an “excellent gentleman” whose experience will be beneficial to both the students and their parents at the dinner.
“In past years we have seen parents go through a range of emotions; happiness, sadness, pride, worry, and we haven’t really addressed this,” said Trudel. “Tim has stood in both sets of shoes, as someone who himself served and as a parent of someone who is serving.”
Additionally, area musician Greg O’Brien will sing his song “’Cause We’re Americans” at the dinner. Trudel commented on O’Brien’s song on YouTube, inviting him to perform at the dinner, saying that it would be “a treat” and “very fitting.” O’Brein replied that he was “very familiar” with the dinner and used to do voiceover work at ESPN.
Trudel thanked Tim Gamache, who organized the event in the past, for being “a great source of knowledge” as well as Donna Dognin of the Veteran Strong Center, who he said is “excellent” and does a lot to help the community.
He also thanked Nuchie’s for being supportive of their efforts in hosting the event every year and has asked other area businesses either provide donations to help curb the cost of the event or donate “swag bags” to give to the recruits.
“It is such an honor for me to be able to be part of team that shows recognition to all these young recruits who are making a step into their futures and a step into adulthood,” said Trudel. “They are all heroes just for making that first step into their service by putting on the uniform of this great nation.”
Trudel said he plans to extend the Bristol Veterans Council’s support of the young servicemen and women honored at the Salute Dinner by reaching out to them when they return on leave to welcome them home.
“I recently met with someone we honored at last year’s salute dinner, Joel Boder, and his parents at the American Legion in Terryville,” he said. “He told me that he had been stationed to serve in Hawaii for three years. I have known him since he was in diapers and now he has gone into the Army reserves. It was an honor to get to know the next generation that is taking on the roles that we veterans once served. If they follow through and do honorable service, some may stay in the service but others may come back to become future community leaders.”
Trudel said that, among this year’s recruits, there are several others that he has known since they were young children. Namely, Nicholas Ratta, who is going into the Air Force and Jared Lacko who is entering into the Army. Trudel said that he wishes all of the recruits success in their ventures.
This year’s honorees
Jadon Amaez, Marines
Jasmine Applegate, Navy
Ethan Cote, Army
Mark Krawiec, Air Force Academy
Thomas Nelligan, Army
Nicholas Ratta, Air Force
Olivia Savino, Connecticut National Guard
Haden Sundgren, Army
Brendan Varnum, Marines
Casey Adams, Marines
Derek Armstrong, Army
Harrison Dayton, Marines
J. Wyatt Doyon, Army
Francis Flood, Marines
Adrian Garcia, Air Force
Michael Grabowski, Connecticut National Guard
Lindsay Hoyt, Army
Zachary Sassu, Army
Jairol Feliz, Air Force
Terian Guerra, Marines
Jaedon Jones, Marines
Celeste Matta, Army
Kyle Ross, Army
Makayla Morring, Army
Jared Smith, Navy
Robert “Matt” Gray, Army
James Gianfredi, Navy
Nicholas Gizzi, Navy
Jared Lacko, Army
Evan Taylor, Navy
Tyler Troth, Army
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.