On November 9th, Naugatuck Valley Community College honored the country’s veterans and staff, faculty, and students who are current military members through a touching, interactive ceremony held in the College’s Leever Atrium. Sponsored by the Veterans Affairs Office and the Veterans Club the ceremony included speeches, singing, poetry, and a dedication of a wreath followed by a moment of silence. Koralin Dains, Secretary of the College’s Veterans Club, and a member of the Army National Guard who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012, greeted the dozens of community members present. Gerald Mullings, a Naugatuck Valley student, led attendees in an emotionally resonant rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. President Daisy Cocco De Filippis, Ph.D. provided opening remarks and a reading of Emily Dickinson’s poem, “‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers.” To the College’s 250 student veterans, President De Filippis said, “We hope that in your studies here and in your engagement with us, you find the respect and the solace and the strength, and the hope to come back, if you’ve been in battle, and engage in meaningful ways in a society that is grateful for your service.”
The ceremony continued with an invocation recited by Pastor Leon Luciano, the facilities superintendent at NVCC, and segued to observations from guest speaker Command Sergeant Major Arlindo “Al” Almeida from the 99th Regional Support Command Army Reserves. A highly decorated and awarded officer with three bronze stars, Command Sergeant Major Almeida spoke about what Veterans Day means to him. The November holiday evokes three things, he observed, primarily, that “it’s all about the friendship,” that “heroes are ordinary people with extraordinary qualities,” and that the holiday is for “families.” The 38-year veteran reminded attendees that soldiers aren’t the only ones who go to war, but that families also make incredible sacrifices as they go to war along with the soldiers they send out in the world. Following Almeida’s speech, Provost James Troup led attendees in a rendition of “America the Beautiful,” and Leo LaVallee, previously an interim Executive Director for the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra, played “Taps,” during the wreath dedication ceremony. According to Debbie DiCicco, Veterans’ Affairs Coordinator at the College, approximately 250 veterans currently attend NVCC and utilize the GI Bill, the CT State Veterans Tuition waiver, or the National Guard Tuition waiver.