Ceremony honors veterans, thanks community

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Fri., Nov. 11, 2011
After presenting the colors, veterans Walther Grunder and Frank Forrest salute the flag at the Veteran's Day ceremony at the Glastonbury Senior Center on Nov. 10. Photos by Steve Smith.
After presenting the colors, veterans Walther Grunder and Frank Forrest salute the flag at the Veteran's Day ceremony at the Glastonbury Senior Center on Nov. 10. Photos by Steve Smith.

The Glastonbury Senior Center paid tribute to veterans on Nov. 10 with a special luncheon and presentation. The colors were presented by a color guard comprised of members of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Marine Corps, and Glastonbury's Veterans Service Commission, and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Deborah Finn of the Glastonbury VFW Ladies Auxiliary #7659. Pianist Jeff Weiselberg led the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Town Councilman and Iraq War veteran Tim Coon introduced John Gallina, co-founder of Purple Heart Homes.

“We were contacted by John's organization, and through a number of twists and turns, we were lucky enough to put something together,” Coon said. “It's an opportunity for our veterans, and that's what [Veterans Day] is about. Our communities are very grateful for what veterans have given to all of us, and John's organization has taken that to heart.”

Purple Heart Homes – in conjunction with the town – is helping to provide a home for injured Marine Corporal Manny Jimenez at 131 Addison Road. Jimenez was scheduled to attend the event, but unforseen circumstances intervened.

Gallina, also a combat-wounded veteran of the war in Iraq, spoke from experience of the need for these homes, and the importance of community involvement for disabled veterans. “When we came home, our community lifted us up and thanked us,” he said. “It was something that was very different. It was something our community had not been a part of for many generations. To be welcomed home as a hero and to have your community rally together and to build a home for you so that you can live comfortably with your family, tuck your children in at night, access your bathroom and get into your front door on your own, makes a tremendous impact on one's psyche and the dignity that our men and women have.”

Gallina said that dignity is often lost when wounded soldiers return to homes that are not equipped for them. “On a battlefield, we are trained not to leave one another behind,” Gallina said. “Are we going to do that when we come home? Are we going to leave our brothers and sisters to suffer without dignity?”

That dignity, Gallina said, can be provided by giving soldiers “not handouts, but hand-ups.”

“It's not too much to ask to be able to access your bathroom, to be able to reach your cabinets, and to be able to have your community come together and not just simply say, 'thank you,' but to give your most valuable resource,” Gallina said, “and it's not your dollar  – it's your time. What we've found is that when a community rallies together and lifts that veteran up with their time... it makes a tremendous impact. It reaffirms that desire to be a part of your community – to continue to give and support.”

Gallina said ground is scheduled to break on the accessible home in the early spring, and Jimenez should be moved in by the summer of 2012. “The response that has come from this community has been unbelievable,” Gallina said. “It is heart-warming to know – this is what's right with America.”

Additionally, the presentation moved Joe Turovac, a World War II veteran who just happened to be visiting the senior center for the first time with his son, to sing a song, impromptu and a cappella, called “I'll Walk With God,” which he said he sang with his fellow soldiers on the battlefields nearly 70 years ago.

For more information on Purple Heart Homes, visit www.purplehearthomesusa.org or call 704-838-4044.


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