Veterans liaison works to get CT vets medals they never received for their service

Connecticut

Today is the last day of May, which means we are wrapping up Military Appreciation Month.

It’s hard to imagine but there are veterans across our state who have not received the rightful recognition for their service. But that’s changing, thanks to the help of one man and his full time job.

The sound of our National Anthem still bringing these three veterans to their feet. But this story actually starts with the man in the front of the room.

“The veterans’ liaison for Hartford Healthcare at home,” said Wayne I. Rioux. “As I would go in and out of nursing homes and assisted living communities, I would see all these veterans at the front door with their hats and shirts and I wondered who is taking care of them.” 

So he began having a coffee hour with veterans across Connecticut, meeting with small groups to talk about their benefits. Getting to know each one of them in the process.

“And it’s now ballooned to 60 coffee hours a month. Every day of the week I’m doing two or three a day,” said Rioux. 

Quickly learning that some of these veterans, now in their 90’s, never received medals that they earned for their service.

Which brings us back to this group at Mulberry Gardens in Southington. One of the many ceremonies Rioux and his staff put together to make sure each veteran across our state finally gets the medals they earned decades ago.

“For some, it’s just the idea they are being recognized and respected for what they did,” said Rioux. 

Today these vets are getting the “Connecticut Veterans War Time Service” medal.

First up, Marge Mckennerney who served in the Navy during World War II.

“Well it’s an honor. That’s all I can say, it’s an honor,” said Mckennerney. 

“We grew up in Waterbury, very patriotic, red white and blue was just part of our life,” said David Goodson, Marge’s son. 

Edward Talan also served in the Navy during the second world war.

“I was happy I had several medals before. I don’t know where they are,” said Talan, a U.S. Navy veteran. 

And finally, Kenneth Leslie, a Korean veteran who served in the Navy as well.

“At my table where I eat there was several that had received medals recently, and they really appreciated them,” said Leslie. 

It can sometimes take Rioux months to get these awards.

As was the case back in February, when he presented a World War II vet in Newington with a prestigious French award. That one had to get approval from the president of France.

These medals are a long time coming for people who don’t necessarily have many years left.

“It gives me a feeling of purpose, sense of pride and I get home and say I really changed somebody’s life today,” said Rioux.

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