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.”
Again, due to the pandemic, this year’s BBQ could not be held on Independence Day weekend, so it was postponed until Saturday, Aug. 28. Volunteers participated from all over southern Connecticut to feed over nearly 300 patients and staff.
Officials from throughout southern Connecticut volunteered to support the volunteer efforts. Congressman Jim Himes (D-4), joined with West Haven Planning & Zoning Commissioner Steven R. Mullins, Fairfield Town Representative Alexis Harrison, former West Haven Mayor Edward O’Brien, former City Clerk Debbie Collins, and others.
“The tragic events that have been taking place in Afghanistan this past week have really brought to light the importance of serving our veterans that have given so much to support our rights and freedoms” Mullins said.
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 over a decade. During that time, over 4000 meals of ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs, salads and fruit have been served.
This year’s picnic was in honor of United States Army Lt. David Paul Cole of Norwalk, who died recently at the age of 89. Wounded on Nov. 20, 1963 in Vietnam, Cole was awarded the Purple Heart. In addition, he was awarded the Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal with Oak Leaf, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Commendation Medal and numerous other decorations.
In addition to his military service, the Col. served on the Norwalk Board of Education and the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission. He is survived by his wife Donna Lynne Cole and his children. His ashes will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in spring.