HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A World War II veteran, born in the roaring 20s, grew up in Hamden. George Breuler was at a dance, listening to the Glenn Miller Band, when his life changed forever.
“When we came out, they said, ‘Pearl Harbor is bombed.’ We didn’t know where Pearl Harbor was,” Breuler said.
He learned fast, and then enlisted in the Army during WWII when he was 21. He trained in the states before heading not battle as part of the 328th Infantry assigned to the 26th Division.
The work took him from France to Germany and Austria, where he was involved in liberating two concentration camps full of Jewish families.
“Oh, those camps are terrible. You can’t believe to see those rows of people lined up all dead,” Breuler said. “It was so important that we were freeing those people.”
He had his own ‘band of brothers’ and lost many along the way.
“All those guys that were filled, my squad, wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you right now,” Breuler said.
Breuler returned home to Connecticut, forever changed, after the war ended in 1945, surprising his family at a special time.
“I’ll never forget, I got home for Christmas. I knocked on the door, my mom said, ‘you’re home.’ I said, ‘I’m home,’” Brueler said.
Breuler got married in 1946 and became a father of four, a grandfather, and a great grandfather. He made quite an impression in his home of North Haven, famously coordinating the Memorial Day Parade and driving a school bus.
Steven Wronski, a schoolteacher, served on the American Legion with Breuler for years. He says the veteran always took time to share his story with are youth.
“These are kids that I don’t know if they ever met a person from WWII because they’re young and they wanted his autography, they were coming up to him like he was the biggest hero they ever met,” Wronski said.
To that point, the living legend was inducted into the Connecticut Veteran’s Hall of Fame in 2013. The humble man says he’s just proud to be an American and hopes his incredible story continues to educate and inspire.
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) – Eight Connecticut veterans were recently laid to rest with fully military honors. They fought for our country, but when they passed away, no one came to claim them.
Those men are “forgotten no more.”
“It just breaks my heart that it took so long to get them here to honor them,” said Patti Dumin, Air Force Veteran.
“These soldiers, veterans were lost, died, were sitting on a shelf for a few years, which I think is utterly disgusting,” said Larry Riley, Vietnam veteran.
Their service dates were from World War I to Vietnam. They passed away as long ago as 1972, but when they did, no one ever claimed their remains.
“It just surprised me that these people had nobody and were sitting on a shelf for all of these years with nobody to claim them, and they deserve to have somebody here to bury them,” said John Waggoner, Vietnam veteran.
In 2009, the State Department of Veterans Affairs partnered with the Funeral Directors Association to look into any unclaimed remains and find out if they served their country.
“We do the research to confirm whether they were a veteran, and if they were, we then hold these ceremonies, like this here. Year after year for the past ten years,” said Commissioner Thomas J. Saadj, CT Department of Veterans Affairs.
It doesn’t matter if they had no family to claim them when they passed away, they wore the uniform, so they will always have family. They are now surrounded by them at the state Veterans Cemetery in Middletown.
“A lot of work and research goes into it, but it is worth it because we have that common mission of making sure we have no fallen veteran behind,” Saadj said.