Blumenthal makes appearance at Weston military ceremony
WESTON -- The town's celebration of its Community Covenant with the Military Sunday served as Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's first appearance at an event honoring military personnel since admitting last week he mis-spoke about his own military service.
In a news conference May 18, Blumenthal offered regrets about inadvertently claiming over the years to have served in Vietnam when he didn't. Blumenthal joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Reserves during the Vietnam era. He was one of several federal, state and local politicians who addressed the audience of about 150 people at Weston High School. They gathered to offer their commitment to servicemen and women in the U.S. military, including veterans, active duty personnel and reservists.
Blumenthal received polite applause as he was introduced and at the conclusion of his remarks, during which he made no mention of the controversy. Several people in the audience said they did not want to comment about Blumenthal and the issue of his military service saying Sunday's event was a patriotic, not a political forum. Event Master of Ceremonies Gil Sanborn, the civilian aide to the secretary of the army for Connecticut, would say only that he has attended many events at which Blumenthal has spoken in support of the troops.
"Thank you to the town of Weston for showing what is really important about America, what is important about being an American. What you've done with this covenant is truly a model for our entire state and our nation," Blumenthal said, adding that the celebration had personal meaning for him as well. "I have a son who was commissioned just a few months ago in the United States Marine Corps. Reserve and he is finishing his training, as we speak, at Quantico," he said.
"Nothing is more important than supporting our troops and keeping faith with our veterans, and I have been a very staunch and steadfast advocate of making sure that we honor and respect the troops who are serving now and all the veterans who have served before," Blumenthal said.
Sunday's celebration featured a keynote speech by Col. JB Burton, who serves as executive assistant to the deputy secretary of defense in Washington, a 30-minute documentary "The Surge" and the signing of the covenant. The national anthem was sung by Jennifer Barron, of Weston, and Army Sgt. Major Caterina Veronesi, a Bridgeport native, sang "God Bless America."
Burton, who was a combat leader in Baghdad, discussed the key role of the Dagger Brigade during the surge in Iraq and strategies that led to a turn-around in the U.S. war effort. He also talked about the impact Weston citizens had on Brigade members during their deployment in late 2006 and early 2007.
"Our troopers appreciate the support that you extend, whether it's six tons of brownies baked by Jane (Young-Anglim), whether its soccer balls from Meg (Sanborn) and her great friends, whether it's the adopting of the medical platoons by the EMTs. That touch of America to troopers in combat means something. I'm ever thankful that we had the opportunity to cross paths with the great town of Weston," Burton said.
"When the military receives support from the home front it is like oxygen; it is the wind beneath our wings," said Veronesi, who is a chief operating officer of a civil liaison team based at Fort Meade in Maryland, who served in Iraq for 18 months.
Sgt. Samuel Dolan, an Army recruiter in Danbury, said he was deployed to Iraq in 2006 but never experienced the outpouring of support that Weston provided for the Dagger Brigade. "It's interesting to see a community come together and support a unit that they don't even know," Dolan said.
Preston Joffe, 10, chose to miss his fifth-grade soccer game to attend the patriotic event. "It's not every day that you get to hear Army soldiers speak," Preston said.
"Regardless of what you feel about any particular military action or war, the reality is that there are many men and women who are stationed around this world who left the comfort and security of their homes so we can have the comfort and security of ours, and they unequivocally, absolutely deserve our support," said First Selectman Gayle Weinstein.
"We not only have an obligation to support our military directly. We also have an obligation to support them by being informed and active citizens," Sanborn said.