Saturday, April 28, 2012
Legion Welcomes Home Vets; Seeks News of Others
In ceremonies at Post #75 Saturday morning, Mayor Dan Drew and members of the city's General Assembly delegation presented proclamations to US Army Sgt. Charles Pickett and Staff Sgt. Anthony R. Kierys, thanking both for their service. Pickett is a Middletown native who served deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Kierys, a Portland native now living in Middletown, just returned from Afghanistan two weeks ago.
"I'm pretty fresh off the boat" said Kierys, noting that his 2 year old daughter "grew up a lot while I was gone."
Both veterans were thankful for the welcome. Said Kierys, "I feel appreciated. It's nice to have a nice welcome home like this, especially with other veterans." Pickett said Post 75 had "gone over and above in making me feel welcome back in my home town."
Post Commander Phil Cacciola told all those gathered, "A lot of us are Viet Nam era vets and we remember the way it was in the 70's. We all feel, to a person, we don't want that to happen to this generation of soldiers."
But making sure servicemen and women get an appropriate welcome home is tougher than it might seem. Privacy laws mean there is no central place for veteran's organizations to find out about local people serving in conflicts overseas. They have no way to know when veterans are returning unless the soldier or their family notify them.
Michael Rogalsky, of the Middletown Council of Veterans, says anyone serving in the military, or their family and friends, can notify the Council at WelcomeVets@hotmail.com. Nothing will be made public without the veteran's or family's approval. But Rogalsky hopes that with more input from families and the public, they'll be able to welcome home every person from Middletown who has volunteered to serve.
Sgt. Pickett echoed the sentiment, saying that "After ten years of war, and with the conflicts winding down, veteran service organizations and community support are even more vital as people come home."