By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
A legion of veterans and their families from near and afar, together with city and state leaders and members of West Haven’s Veterans Council and Surfside Veterans, descended on the Veterans Walk of Honor to pay tribute to Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
City Council Chairman Peter V. Massaro, standing on the Walk of Honor in the heart of Bradley Point Park, delivered prepared remarks on behalf of Mayor Nancy R. Rossi to the patriotic crowd of mostly veterans, many wearing black baseball caps referencing their military assignments in gold lettering.
“Mayor Rossi was unable to attend this morning and asked me to offer a few words on her behalf,” said Massaro (D-6), speaking in front of a black granite memorial in commemoration of World War II Army Pfc. William A. Soderman as light rain fell.
“As we’re all gathered here, I would like to recognize all of those who have served or are currently serving,” Massaro said. “Serving in the armed forces is one of the noblest things that one can do, which is what we’re here to celebrate today.”
Massaro continued: “Veterans Day is a day that is very near to my heart. My brother, Roger, was a dedicated serviceman and served in the U.S. Army for 20 years. As I honor his memory, I am also thinking about all those in our own community. On behalf of my office, we will forever be grateful for all of the sacrifices you have made.”
Louis P. Esposito, Jr., Rossi’s executive assistant, served as the master of ceremonies.
The seaside ceremony also featured remarks by state Rep. Charles J. Ferraro, R-West Haven, and Veterans Council President Dave Ricci, a Marine Corps vet who served in the Vietnam War.
“We are united under our flag — red, white and blue — not red, white or blue,” Ricci said. “We are the United States of America, let’s stay that way!”
He added: “Freedom is a highway for success, for learning and for being. Think about it, and we can thank our military and our vets for that.”
The half-hour program commenced with a procession of local and state officials and West Haven first responders led by the West Haven Police Honor Guard and followed with a flag-raising by the West Haven Fire Department Honor Guard, composed of members of the West Haven Fire Department, the West Shore Fire Department and the City of West Haven Fire Department Allingtown.
The procession consisted of West Haven police chiefs and recruits and West Haven fire chiefs and firefighters. It also included City Clerk Patricia C. Horvath, city Tax Collector Dorothy Chambrelli, Allingtown fire Commissioner Frederick Brown, city Human Resources Commissioner Beth A. Sabo, and City Council members Victor M. Borras (D-8), Robert Bruneau (D-9), Gary Donovan (D-at large), Ronald M. Quagliani (D-at large), and Colleen O’Connor (R-at large).
The program included the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by city resident Nora E. Mullins, opening and closing prayers by the Rev. E. Carl Howard, the senior pastor of the First Congregational Church of West Haven, and the singing of “God Bless America,” also by Mullins.
West Haven paramedic Mike Alfano then rang the department’s chrome bell 11 times at 11 a.m. in observance of Veterans Day.
Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day, is celebrated on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, marking the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I in 1918.
The event concluded with taps played by retired West Shore fire Lt. Kevin McKeon.
To coincide with the solemn ceremony, the Veterans Council launched the 15th phase of its popular Brick Campaign.
In November 2006, the council began the first of 15 campaigns selling bricks to memorialize veterans on the 100-yard Walk of Honor between the William A. Soderman and Vietnam Veterans memorials.
The bricks, which cost $75, have charcoal lettering for personalized messages.
About 2,900 bricks have been installed to date, including 58 for the 14th phase, which was dedicated June 4.
Applications, due March 17, 2023, are available at https://www.cityofwesthaven.com/DocumentCenter/View/4812/Veterans-Brick-Campaign-Application-2023-PDF and in the mayor’s office at City Hall, 355 Main St. For details, call 203-937-3510.