BRISTOL - The Bristol Veterans Council honored and gave encouragement and well-wishes to students preparing to graduate and begin careers in the military Friday at their annual Salute Dinner at Nuchie’s.
Following a social hour in which those about to serve met those in whose footsteps they will follow, Donna Dognin of the Bristol Veterans Strong Center welcomed the honored guests and local leaders in attendance.
“I’ve wanted to serve since I was four years old,” said Kyle Ross, of Plainville, one of the recruits who will be entering the Army, as he sat with family. Ross noted that he had 11 family members who served. Both of his great-grandparents served in World War II and his grandfather was in Vietnam.
Event Emcee Al Terzi and Mayor Ken Cockayne also addressed the recruits.
“This really is very special,” said Terzi. “This is a big decision you’ve made. Here you are now - you have made a commitment to yourself and your country. You stick with it. This is going to change your life. You will be learning things about yourself that you never knew. You will be challenged all the time. The training and discipline you will get in your training will put you way ahead of everyone else in the job market. This is a good decision that you are making.”
“To serve your country is quite a commitment you’re putting forward,” said Cockayne. “This is not taken lightly by those of us who are not out there serving, especially in this crazy world.”
State Sen. Henri Martin also presented a citation from the state legislature and personal words of thanks.
“You are entering the military at a time where the world has never seemed more dangerous,” he said. “Terrorists are using computer viruses to disrupt our infrastructure and are executing smaller attacks away from the conventional battlefield causing direct harm to civilians. I thank you for choosing to serve; you are already making Connecticut proud. Good luck and God bless you.”
The national anthem was then sung by Bryanna Paternostro from the Nutmeg Performing Arts Center followed by a break for dinner.
Keynote remarks were given by Michael Heimbach, a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1976 to 1979 and later served in the FBI for 20 years. His son currently serves in the Marine Corps and is stationed in Japan.
“You will leave here with some building blocks for life,” Heimbach said. “In life, your gratitude will be equal to your altitude. Life has its peaks and valleys but your true character will be judged by the valleys.”
Musician Greg O’Brien sang an original song, “Because We’re Americans,” to honor the recruits prior to them receiving awards and being ceremonially sworn in to the military. Russ Trudel, chairman of the Bristol Veterans Council, then recited a poem he wrote titled “The Uniform” to reflect on the meaning of service.
Trudel then gave closing remarks.
“This is a choice that a good number of us here tonight support with the highest degree of respect and admiration, for it is the path that many of us chose at a younger age ourselves,” he said.
“To the parents and family members in the room I implore you, when you leave here tonight know that you have our full support and respect and we ask you all to keep us informed of the travels and accomplishments of your young Marine or airman or soldier or sailor as they start their journey into the future. Also know that whenever you think times are hard or worrisome and the road is difficult being the parent of a service member we are here for you.”
The event closed with a benediction by Brother Leonard Webster.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at or .
This year’s honorees:
. Jadon Amaez, Marines
. Jasmine Applegate, Navy
. Ethan Cote, Army
. Mark Krarwiec, 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