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News 8 Special: Veterans Voices – honoring those who serve

Veterans Voices

(WTNH) — In this News 8 Special, we highlight the stories of the brave men and women who sacrifice so much to serve our country.

News 8’s Chief Meteorologist, and U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, Gil Simmons, hosts this special.

Gil served as a meteorologist and oceanographer; he attended Air Force Weather schools and deployed in four different Navy ships everywhere from the Pacific, Caribbean, to North of the Arctic Circe forecasting the weather.

We begin with the Greatest Generation, the men and women who served in World War II, bravely facing true evil, simply because it was the right thing to do.

16 million American men and women served in the Great War, 348 die each day. 10 years from now, only a handful will be left.

Today there are an estimated 7,500 WWII Veterans left in Connecticut. As more and more pass due to the natural aging process, it’s more important than ever to listen to what they have to say, and pass stories of their sacrifice on to future generations.

News 8’s Sarah Cody introduces us to a vibrant vet from Berlin, Connecticut, and the local Chapter of House of Heroes that stepped-in and stepped-up to give free home improvements to a vet in need.

Finding a meaningful career after leaving the military can be difficult. That’s why the Vets Rock Hiring Expo was held recently.

News 8 is a proud sponsor of the event that is aimed at giving service members, veterans, and their spouses the tools they need to navigate the hiring process.

Those returning home from war often find themselves isolated, and that’s why a Virginia man has made it his life’s mission to give his fellow veterans a sense of community and a way to heal from injuries both physical and emotional.

Retired Army Ranger James Howard is a wounded warrior. He survived an explosion in Iraq, wounded by shrapnel. Ultimately, though, a diving accident left him paralyzed.

After his injuries, Howard said it was a sense of community that helped him push forward.

Howard served multiple tours overseas, and now, he serves others who have served. Each month for the past five years he has hosted a Disabled Veterans retreat with his non-profit ‘Veterans and Athletes United.’

Non-profit organization ‘Honor Flight Connecticut‘ is honoring American veterans for all of their sacrifices.

Here to tell us more about this outstanding program, we have Matt Sparks from ‘Honor Flight’.

“Our mission is […] to honor our veterans with a trip to DC to see their respective memorials. It started in 2004 after the memorial was built.

There was a physical therapist in his VA hospital that took two of his WWII patients down to see the new memorial in 2005.

From that it grew the next year they took 12 in six planes, two-seaters each. So they had 12 that went down and we are up to, as of late, nationally through our 130 hubs that we have across the United States – 165,000 veterans we’ve taken to Washington DC. “

– Matt Sparks of ‘Honor Flight’

For more about this organization, watch the video above.

Once forgotten, now forever remembered: strangers pay respect to veterans whose remains went unclaimed for years.

Four U.S. service members received a long overdue burial in Middletown, complete with military honors. Continuing their promise to never leave a fallen comrade behind.

For funeral director, Robyn Esposito, being part of the process meant a lot.

“I’m a veteran, six years National Guard here in Connecticut.

I wanted to make sure they went home because they’ve been sitting in our office for quite some time now.

It was nice to see them from start to finish get where they needed to be and nice they got the honors that they needed”

– Robyn Esposito

An annual fishing tournament here in Connecticut is helping veterans heal by showing them how to cast a line.

Every May and September, local vets team up with experienced Anglers out on Candlewood Lake. Fishing, for these vets, is a form of therapy for those dealing with physical and emotion scars from their service.

Joe Kolwalski is the president of the Major Steven Roy Andrews Fishing Outreach Program. He says of fishing that, “being on the water, it just kind of makes everything we’ve all experienced going through war just kinda of go away for a little while.”

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