You could sense the pride coming from two men who help run the Waterbury Veterans Memorial Committee.
“It’s a proud day for every veteran out here that this country will not leave our war dead behind,” said Sam Beamon, committee chairman and a veteran of the Vietnam War.
“I’ve prayed for this day,” said John Sarlo.
Mr. Sarlo served in the Korean War. He says as good as it feels for him, he can only imagine what it feels like for the families who’ve waited nearly six decades to find out what happened to their loved ones or who’ve waited to get word on their remains so they could be brought back to the United States for a proper burial with family.
“I think it’s great they’re coming home,” Mr. Sarlo said. “But it’s very greater love, if you will, for those they belong to. The siblings and the family. “
Earlier this week, News 8 spoke with one of those families — the family of Sgt. Victor Choiniere. His relatives live in Waterbury. Sgt. Choiniere is listed as missing in action from the Korean War and his little sister, who’s now 79, has made it her life’s mission to find his remains. Her son, the sergeant’s nephew, has joined her.
“It’s been a lot of years and a long time and she still can’t talk about it,” said David George, Sgt. Choiniere’s nephew.
The return of these remains now gives the family hope that for the first time since he was declared MIA in the 50s, they finally may get some of what they’ve been longing for — his returns back home.
“We never anticipated anything like this happening where there’s a chance right now,” David said. “There’s a possibility that him or a part of him is in one of those cases.”
Testing on the remains will be done in Hawaii. David has prayed for the day when he would be able to tell his mother, they found her brother. He’s back home.
“It would be overwhelming,” David said. “Since I was young, I’ve been involved with my mother in her quest to find him or some of him so she would have closure.”
Mr. Sarlo hopes that closure comes soon.
“I hope the testing process doesn’t take a long time like 2,3,4 years,” Mr. Sarlo said. “These families deserve closure.”
As part of their love of country, Mr. Sarlo and Mr. Beamon help run the Waterbury Veterans Memorial Committee. They work to salute Waterbury-area veterans and make sure their contributions and sacrifices are never forgotten.
The committee does that by holding ceremonies, speaking to students at schools, and by maintaining a memorial park for veterans on Thomaston Road. It is filled with plaques and the names of Waterbury veterans who have served our country, giving the ultimate sacrifice.
“We keep the memory of our veterans alive not only for us, those that served with them, but also for the families,” Mr. Beamon said.