The Bristol Press – Veterans Strong Community Center, Wernicki Family Honors Several Local Veterans
BRISTOL — The Veterans Strong Community Center and the Wernicki family honored several local veterans on Monday at the annual Patriot’s Day Awards at the Manross Memorial Library.
Patriot’s Day is held in recognition of the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. This event was called “The Shot Heard Around the World” by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was the first battle that started the American Revolutionary War.
Locally, the holiday is used as an occasion to honor veterans and service members. Local leaders, including Mayor Jeff Caggiano, attended the ceremony Monday to honor the seven honorees.
The event began with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Brennen Howe, a third-grade student from Stafford Elementary School. Miss Connecticut Elementary Princess Pricilla Tobias then explained the history of Patriots Day.
“On July 10, 2017, Patriot’s Day became an official state holiday in Connecticut,” Tobias said. “We now join three other states – Maine, Massachusetts and Wisconsin, which are already celebrating with pride.”
Amy Wernicki, president of the Veterans Strong Community Center, said the community was asked to nominate people who had been “heroic in service to our country.”
The first recipient was Joe Caminiti, who served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II and participated in the American amphibious invasion of Iwo Jima. He is also a longtime member of the Boys and Girls Club.
“Joe witnessed the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima,” Wernicki said. “It was his team’s job to bring ammunition to the soldiers and bring the wounded to the hospital or transport the wounded to the hospital. Joe is adamant that he’s not a hero, but he certainly meets the definition in our eyes.
Edward Litherland, a retired US Army command sergeant major who served 34 years in the military, was also honored.
“Ed is a board member of the American Legion Post 2, an active member of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), and vice president of the Veterans Strong Community Center,” Wernicki said.
The third recipient is Richard “Dick” Avery, who served in the US Army’s 2nd Division during the Korean War, spending 9 months on the front line.
“He is a life member of the American Legion Post 2 and the DAV (Disabled American Veterans),” Wernicki said. “His free time is spent honoring and celebrating other veterans. Dick is the treasurer of the Bristol Korean Veterans Association and was instrumental in raising funds for the Korean War Memorial on the Boulevard.
A Patriot’s Day Award was presented posthumously to the late Alfred G. Piece, who served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. Darlene Lefeve received the award on behalf of her family, who were unable to attend.
“He was an active volunteer with the office of the Soldiers, Sailors and Marine Fund from 2013 until his death in 2018,” Wernicki said. “Al was best known for co-founding the Bristol Recovery Club, an organization dedicated to providing a sober, safe and supportive environment for people who wish to remain free from the negative influences of drugs and alcohol.”
Donna Dognin, Executive Director of the Veterans Strong Community Center, introduced the next recipient – Richard Carello, a retired U.S. Army first sergeant who served in the Vietnam War and later became a correctional officer.
“He is a member of the American Legion Post 2, where he also serves on their executive committee and is part of the honor guard,” Dognin said. “Rich is Vice President of the Bristol Veterans Council and a member of the PLAV (Polish American Veterans Legion).”
The sixth winner on Monday was Jim Bousquet, who joined the Air Force in 1959 and was stationed in England. He started with Bristol Press in 1965 and worked his way up to production management.
“Jim worked for The Bristol Press for 41½ years and his service did not end after enlistment,” Dognin said. “He is a life member of the American Legion Post 2 and serves in the Post Honor Guard. He works with the Bristol Military Museum and is Commandant of the Bristol Korean Veterans Association.
Bousquet said he was “truly honored” to receive the award.
“It’s not too often that you’re honored by the city you live in,” he said. I didn’t expect something like this; I feel like just an average Joe.
The seventh winner is Bob Montgomery, who served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve from 1966 to 1972 and writes as a columnist for Bristol Press.
“Bob is the co-founder of the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame, a 30-year member of the Bristol Tramps Committee and City Historian,” Dognin said. “He received a Humanitarian Award from the Boys & Girls Club of Bristol in 2013 and a Spirit of Bristol Award from the Central CT Chambers of Commerce in 2014. The Bristol Korean Veterans Association named him Man of the Year in 2016 and he was named Bristol’s. Hometown Hero in 2017. Bob is a member of the Bristol Korean Veterans Association as well as a life member of the American Legion Post 2.”
Montgomery said receiving the award came as a surprise.
“It’s an honor to be among those chosen with and before me,” he said. “It has been a joy to volunteer in the community and to serve my country. Life has done me good.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or [email protected]