Senior center event honors Shelton's military veterans

SHELTON — Honoring the city’s military veterans has become a tradition for Doreen Laucella. 

And the Shelton Senior Center’s longtime director’s love for paying respect to those who have served was on full display Thursday with the annual Veterans Day Brunch — which gathers the city’s military veterans for a meal, musical performances, and often special gifts. 

“I am always honored to help do this for our veterans,” Laucella said during the brunch, which included speeches from Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Jr., and Dennis Salzer, both veterans. 

“I am truly honored and humbled to do this every year,” said Laucella, who has hosted this event for the past seven years. “To see this outpouring of love and support for these people just shows how much we respond to our veterans.” 

Speeches were followed by the brunch and musical performances by the Senior Center Chorus, directed by David Scrimenti and conducted by Ron Goddard. 

This year’s Veterans Day brunch featured gifts and bagels for all the veterans from BIC, which prior to the pandemic hosted a luncheon for several of the city’s veterans at its Shelton headquarters. 

“The term veterans encompass all who served in the military of the United States of American going back some 250 years,” Anglace said. “It is this realization that those of us who remain accept your thanks on our predecessor's behalf.” 

Salzer said that without the country’s military veterans, “July 4 would just be a date on the calendar."

“We thank our veterans … I don’t need it, but it makes me feel great. It tells us people understand you did something for their freedom,” added Salzer, a retired Navy veteran. “You’ll never know how important it is for a veteran to be remembered.” 

Anglace also told those in attendance of the city’s push to consolidate all the city’s war memorials at Veterans Memorial Park – turning the area into an educational experience. 

“Under Mayor Mark Lauretti, Shelton has undertaken a mission to remember our veterans,” Anglace said, adding that a Veterans Memorial Committee was formed to bring this plan to life. 

“(This is to) tell their story so that future generations will not forget their extraordinary contributions,” Anglace said. “We are consolidating all existing city veteran monuments at Veterans Memorial Park. It will no longer be known as The Slab, it is going to be Veterans Memorial Park come Hell or high water.” 

The park is already home to monuments honoring World War I and II, the Korean War and Vietnam War, but plans are in place to add monuments – one for the War on Terror, and another honoring the history of the US Thresher, a nuclear submarine that sank some 200 miles east of Cape Cod, Mass. All on board, including Shelton resident Lt. John Smarz, died. 

Anglace said there will be a QR code at each monument, which can be used to learn the history of each. He added that Shelton students are working on creating the QR codes. 

“What better way to make them part of the veterans' experience than to get them involved and do it,” he said. “Our hope is that a walk along the Riverwalk will soon become a destination for a veteran's educational tour informing people about how Shelton veterans contributed to our military legacy." 

The city moved the World War II Eagle monument from Riverview Park to Veterans Memorial Park. There is also a plan to revise the Civil War monument to tell the tale of Connecticut and New England veterans and of the 34-star American flag that they carried into battle. 

“You will be able to go from one monument to another and get a story,” Anglace said. “It is our duty as veterans to tell their story of those veterans who proceeded us, to recognize their deeds and never forget that it was our veterans who made the USA what it has come to be — the land of the free because of the brave.” 

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com