BRISTOL - The Bristol Public Library and American Legion Post 2 presented more than 50 Vietnam veterans with lapel pins in commemoration of their service Saturday.
The ceremony was held in the meeting rooms on the lower level of the library as a “thank you” to all living Vietnam veterans. The lapel pins were presented on behalf of the Department of Defense.
American Legion Post 2 Historian Neal Supranovich said that the lapel pin presentations are a national program that has been going on since 2012. However, this is the first time that the ceremony has been held in Bristol. State Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol, and state Rep. Cara Pavalock D’Amato, R-Bristol, presented the lapel pins to more than 50 veterans. They were assisted by a representative from “Dames for Soldiers” and Miss Bristol Outstanding Teen.
“It was a very special event,” said Martin. “I felt how proud they were when I watched them come up to receive their pins. I felt honored and humbled to be able to present them. I think that over the past 50 years, the American people realized that they made an error in the way they treated the Vietnam veterans when they came home. This was our way of saying ‘you guys were soldiers and you did what you were called to do.’”
“It was a thank you and a welcome home that should have been given 50 years ago,” said Scott Stanton, programming and public relations manager at the Bristol Public Library.
City Councilor Peter Kelley read a statement on behalf of Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu. Other councilors in attendance included Joshua Medeiros and Greg Hahn.
Miss Bristol Tori Lemme and Miss Forestville Jillian Duffy worked with the American Legion Post 2 Auxiliary in handing out framed certificates to the veterans. Duffy also sang the national anthem.
Library Director Deborah Prozzo, American Legion Post 2 Commander Rick Schreiner and state Rep. Chris Ziogas, D-Bristol, also thanked the veterans for their service.
“85 veterans signed up but not everyone was able to attend,” said Supranovich. “The library is working on getting the pins and certificates to those who were not there.”
Supranovich said that, overall, the event “went good” and that the library ended up with many new members afterward as many Vietnam veterans who attended got library cards with them.
The event was emceed by Bristol Hometown Hero Bob Montgomery, who read off the names of the veterans as they were called up to receive their pins. Montgomery said that 220 people attended the ceremony including friends and family members of the veterans.
“I was very impressed by the turnout - I never expected that large a number,” said Montgomery. “I salute the veterans and thank them for their service. I saw some teary eyes coming from those in the audience. There was a lot of emotion.”
Brother Leonard Webster provided the invocation and benediction. Following the presentations, the Friends of the Library provided refreshments.
A display of military items from the Vietnam War era was in place before and after the event in the main room. These items were brought by Bristol’s Memorial Military Museum.
“Included with the display were the faces of the 17 men who made the supreme sacrifice from Bristol during the Vietnam War,” said Montgomery.
Supranovich, on behalf of American Legion Post 2, said he would like to thank Funk Funeral Home for providing overflow parking during the event.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.