‘Service, sacrifice, and freedom’: Shelton veterans celebrated at brunch

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — Doreen Laucella admits it is hard to control her emotions each year when the Shelton Senior Center hosts the Veterans Day celebration.

The center’s longtime director calls the event — which gathers the city’s military veterans for a brunch, musical performances, and often special gifts — a constant in her life, one that leaves her humbled.

“I am always honored to help do this for our veterans,” Laucella said during Friday’s Veterans Day brunch at the center. “I am so humbled to be before all the veterans here. To see this outpouring of love and support for these people just shows how much we respond to our veterans.”

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.

Laura Schultz, whose mother had been a regular at the center in year’s past, donated Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards to each veteran. And another member, who wished to remain anonymous, donated three large gift baskets to be raffled off.

The chorus — under the direction of David Scrimenti and conducted by Ron Goddard - also performed a host of patriotic songs as a Power Point presentation was displayed on the large TV screen with dedications honoring the service of all military veterans.

Each veteran also had a chance to win a handmade afghan, crocheted by members of the senior center’s crochet and knitting club.

“These are just amazing,” Lois Shelomis, the club’s leader, said about the crocheted creations.

She said this idea was inspired by Maxine McGhee, who was making red, white and blue afghans and placing them in a box on site in which people would place knitted or crocheted items for any veterans. This year, Shelomis said once she heard about Laucella’s Veterans Day brunch, she thought, why not create afghans or lap robes with a Patriotic flare?

“We pulled all the red, white and blue items out of the box, and the ladies got together and made 25 afghans,” she said.

Shelomis said her last creation could fit a twin bed, and she just completed it Thursday. She got her afghan going during a drive to Cape Cod this past summer. As her husband drove, she crocheted squares.

“Then I put them together, and I thought it was too plain, so I crocheted stars in the middle of each square. It was difficult, but it felt good to get it done,” she said.

Many of the crocheters had family that served in World War II and Korea, she said.

“My brothers served. My father served,” she said. “We have all seen the dedication - guys who gave their lives. Some didn’t come back the way they left. Veterans are always in my heart. I know what my father went through in World War II.”

Navy veteran Dennis Salzer was the master of ceremonies for the event, which also featured Air Force veterans Bill Kozak leading the Pledge of Allegiance and Mike Rehling giving the invocation, plus comments from Army veteran and Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Jr.

Salzer told a story about when, at 5 years old, his parents brought him to the Fourth of July parade in Bridgeport.

“I know I enjoyed the floats and bands, but don’t remember any of it,” Salzer said. “What I do remember, what my heart took a picture of, was 15 men - World War I veterans coming down the street in their hats and military jackets. I knew those men were important, I did not know exactly who they were. Some were in wheelchairs. Some were missing limbs. But I knew they were people we honored.

Salzer said everyone who saw them that day “knew they were a symbol of service, sacrifice and freedom. My fellow veterans, you are the same — a symbol of service, sacrifice and freedom.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com