In 2007, two Vietnam War veterans came up with the idea of serving their fellow military veterans at West Haven’s Veterans Administration Hospital facilitates.
Anthony Pelliggi and Antonio Lorenzo, both Army veterans and Lorenzo’s wife Courtney McKenna, started an annual Fourth of July Bar-B-Q for VA patients and staff.
“A lot of these veterans don’t have families and rarely get visitors.” Lorenzo said. “We felt that we had to do something to show them that they’re appreciated.”
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, this year’s BBQ could not be held on Independence Day weekend, so it was postponed until Saturday, Aug. 29. Volunteers participated from all over southern Connecticut to feed over 150 patients and staff, a considerably smaller number this year, due to the pandemic.
City Councilmen Gary Donovan, (D-At-Large) and Mitch Gallignano, (D-4) joined Planning and Zoning Commissioner Steven R. Mullins in supporting the volunteers’ efforts.
“Now that I know that this is an annual event, I will make sure that in the future, City Councilors, my fellow P&Z Commissioners, police and fire officials and others all pitch in and help serve our veterans and their caretakers.” Mullins said. “For thirteen years, this BBQ has been West Haven’s best kept secret.”
Gerard Grate, co-owner of Joe Grate’s Sons Pig Roast and Bar-B-Q has donated his time and culinary talent to the cause for more than a decade. During that time, nearly 4000 meals of barbequed ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs, salads and fruit have been served.
Pelliggi died a couple of years after starting the BBQ. Lorenzo said that he’s continued it in his memory.