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Local Veterans Honored With Wartime Service Medal At NMS



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Newtown Middle School held a ceremony honoring veterans the morning of November 10.

The program felt intimate, with the appearance of being confined to those in the school cafeteria. In actuality, many NMS students and faculty were silently witnessing from outside as it was broadcast via CCTV technology to all classrooms.

Before the broadcast started, veterans enjoyed a breakfast accompanied by their student sponsor and other family members.

After breakfast, each veteran was introduced, and stood to applause.

Then, NMS student Mia Sullivan led the “Pledge of Allegiance,” and the room observed “The Star-Spangled Banner” performed by members of the school choir.

Five student speakers gave a background on Veterans Day and each branch of the military.

After student comments, NMS Educator Will Ryan then addressed the veterans, saying they set “an example of service.”

“The example you set for our younger generations is the reason for this gratitude,” Ryan said.

State Representative Mitch Bolinsky stepped up to the podium, and said in a speech “everything we hold dear, we owe to our veterans.”

“Every time a veteran steps up, that is an ultimate service to us … that is a profound act of love,” said Bolinsky before introducing State Representative Marty Foncello.

“I encourage the students — if any of them have any questions about the military, ask one of the veterans,” said Foncello, a veteran who served for 28 years. “Seek us out.”

It was revealed that eight veterans with qualified wartime service would be awarded the Connecticut Veterans Wartime Services Medal that day in the cafeteria.

NMS Educator Phil Cruz, a veteran himself, was invited to pin the surprise state award on the seven in attendance as they were honored with their families at the front of the room.

The Newtown veterans honored were: Richard (Rick) Dawson, Army & Marine Corp / Master SGT / Persian Gulf; George Dirschel, Air Force & Coast Guard / CAPT / Vietnam & Persian Gulf; Gregory (Greg) Keller, Army / Staff SGT / Vietnam; Samuel Grummons, Army & Air National Guard / CAPT / War on Terror; Walter Schweikert, Army / First LT / Vietnam; Daniel Schenzer, Air Force / Airman 1st Class / Vietnam; Elias Ervin, Marines / SGT / Persian Gulf (USS Hermitage); and Daniel Reilly, Navy & Naval Reserve / Petty Officer / Vietnam.

“I proudly served as an Army Officer for 28 years, with the Army, the Reserves and National Guard. Co-hosting a ceremony to honor Connecticut veterans was such an honor,” said Foncello in reflection of the event. “It was very moving to see these middle school students stand beaming next to their relatives as they received the Connecticut Wartime Service Medal. They were so happy and so proud to have a part in the ceremony as we handed the award box and pin to them. It was a happy occasion for the whole family.”

The Connecticut Veterans Wartime Services Medal was established in 2005 by the state legislature to honor all Connecticut veterans with qualified wartime service. Before this, the state had not issued such a medal since World War I.

In subsequent years, the state has authorized awards to be made posthumously on or after November 12, 1918.

In order to receive the medal, a veteran must qualify according to three conditions: veterans must have served during a qualified wartime for longer than 90 days, unless the engagement was less than that; they must have received an honorable discharge; and must currently reside in the state of Connecticut.

For more information about the award, visit portal.ct.gov/dva.

Reporter Noelle Veillette can be reached at noelle@thebee.com.

NMS Educator and retired Army officer Phil Cruz pins a Connecticut Veterans Wartime Services Medal to Army and Air National Guard veteran Samuel Grummons. Grummons’ student sponsor, Benjamin Grummons, stands with State Representatives Marty Foncello and Mitch Bolinsky also in frame. Cruz stands among other veterans honored with applause at the beginning of the ceremony. Seth and Liam Sheadarowich assemble their Veterans Day Breakfast together. Seth Sheadarowich is a veteran with experience in airborne infantry and long-range surveillance. Bolinsky observes as Foncello addresses the veterans and their families in the Newtown Middle School cafeteria. —Bee Photos, Veillette
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