In a ceremony recognizing their service to their country, two dozen individuals were presented with the Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal at the Avery Point campus on Sept. 24.
Those receiving the honor included students, faculty, and staff from Avery Point who have served in the armed forces while the United States has been engaged in various conflicts abroad.
In her remarks to those assembled on the lawn overlooking Long Island Sound, Linda S. Schwartz, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veteran’s Affairs, noted that Connecticut’s commitment to its veterans dates back to the Civil War.
“We were the first state in the Union to have a veterans home to care for those who had served their country,” she said, “and [President] Lincoln’s second inaugural address in which he said, ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all … let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan …’ harkens directly back to our State’s commitment to those who serve.
“It’s as if President Lincoln was talking about us,” Schwartz said, “and we continue to live up to his pledge to care for the men and women of this state who wear their uniforms with pride.”
Second District Congressman Joseph Courtney, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, noted that Connecticut’s veterans are part of the fabric that makes this state special and, he said, “As we draw down our troops in Afghanistan, it is so important that we as a state take every opportunity to pay homage to the people who have put their [right] hands up and pledged their service to their Country.”
The Connecticut Veterans Wartime Service Medal is awarded to Connecticut residents who have served during times of conflict, from World War I to the present. While some of those present were Connecticut natives, others came to know the state because of their time in the service.
Ryan Meldrum, a native of Hillsboro, N.J., was based in Groton on the submarine USS Alexandria. He fell in love with the area, and upon his discharge decided to make southeastern Connecticut his home. He is now a senior in UConn’s Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) program, majoring in political science.
Ian Morrison was in the U.S. Army when he served during the first Gulf War. He returned from active duty and completed a degree in coastal studies at Avery Point. He is now back as a BGS student focusing on American history.
Both spoke of the value of Connecticut’s tuition waver for returning veterans, and the opportunities that are presented with a chance to return to school for additional education.
In honoring the veterans present, Lt. Col. Kristopher E. Perry, commander of the AFROTC detachment in Storrs, said UConn is a special place.
“This university, in all its locations, supports veterans,” Perry said. “There are programs at Storrs and at all the regional campuses that make veterans feel welcome and part of the family. This is true within the faculty and staff, and especially with students. It’s all around us … with the University website welcoming vets, the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Disabled Veterans … I can say with certainty that this university values and cherishes the veterans’ presence on campus.”
Courtney, in his remarks, summed it up, saying, “UConn ‘gets it’ when it comes to valuing those who serve.”
Campus director Michael Alfultis, a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard who was slated to receive a Service Medal, was absent. However, he sent his greetings to his fellow veterans through Perry. He said, “To the veterans here today, Avery Point is a better campus by your presence.”
Perry explained that Alfultis had a good reason for missing the ceremony. He was in North Carolina to wish his son happy birthday and to congratulate him upon his graduation from combat skills school. The younger Alfultis, said Perry, “will be heading off to conduct his nation’s business … and taking care of the nation’s business is what this ceremony is all about.”