North Grosvenordale honors local veterans

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
North Grosvenordale - posted Mon., Nov. 14, 2011
Veteran Roland Fafard and First Selectman Larry Groh, Jr., talk before the ceremony. Photos by D. Coffey.
Veteran Roland Fafard and First Selectman Larry Groh, Jr., talk before the ceremony. Photos by D. Coffey.

A bitter wind didn't keep Thompson residents from coming out to honor veterans at the Oscar Swanson Park in North Grosvenordale on Nov. 11. In his opening remarks, VFW Post 10088 Commander Elmer Preston said this year's celebration was a tribute to all the country's veterans, past and present.

First Selectman Larry Groh, Jr., thanked all veterans, living and dead, for the freedoms U.S. citizens have. “They're fighting for all our rights,” he said, “the freedom to bear arms, the freedom of education and travel, the freedom of assembly, like we have here today, the freedom of speech. We thank all our veterans and we remember those serving now in foreign countries.”

State Rep. Danny Rovero (D-51) said, “Never forget this day: 11/11/11. The United States is number one.”

United States Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Luke Hirtle was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by Preston. The Quinebaug resident has served three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Married, and the father of three children, Hirtle said that being a veteran meant many things to him.

“I've had the honor and privilege to do something for this great country,” he said. “I get called out to schools to speak with children, and I love it. It gives me an opportunity to give back to kids.”

But being a service member doesn't come without its tolls, he said. He's had to leave his wife and children several times when he's gotten called up. “My wife has to be the sole caretaker when I go,” he said. “She has to pay the bills and help with the homework and call the plumber when the water heater breaks. She's the strongest woman I know.”

He spoke of his children and the price they had to pay. “My kids have to learn math and reading in school, but they also have to wonder if and when Daddy is coming home,” he said. “I've missed many Christmases, birthdays and holidays. I missed the birth of my third child. These are the prices my children pay.”

He spoke about watching comrades give their lives and witnessing transfer ceremonies. “It can be a roller coaster ride,” he said. “But it is truly an honor. I speak for all service members when I say we appreciate your support. We thank you.”

The names of eight area servicemen, including those of Hirtle and Matthew Guay, a U.S. Army specialist, had been added to the monument for the occasion. Preston said, “Thankfully, there are no fatalities.” He said the VFW hopes to add names on a regular basis in order to recognize veterans' service.

Preston encouraged people in the audience to support the troops. Preston, who served in Berlin during the Vietnam War, said that he and his fellow soldiers were always waiting for mail from back home. It was what sustained them.

Korean War veteran Norman Babbitt presented Larry “Bud” Spann with a Certificate of Appreciation for his work as the Quartermaster of VFW Post 10088.

After the ceremony, participants were invited to the VFW Post 10088 for a luncheon hosted by the Ladies Auxiliary.

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