Hundreds of volunteers laid flags at veterans’ graves in Middletown Saturday morning, to honor those who put their lives on the line for our country.
“My husband’s a veteran,” said Kelly Castano from Hamden.
“My grandfathers were both WWII veterans,” Sarah McCusker said. “They’re long gone now, but we think about them all the time.”
Middletown Police Captain Gary Wallace is a veteran himself. “I just love the honor and respect and to see the community come out,” he said.
On Memorial Weekend in 1985, it was just a few veterans, led by Mike Rogalsky of Middletown, laying flags at the State Veterans Cemetery on Bow Street.
“We needed to be able to show support for those who have served,” said Rogalsky.
Vietnam veteran Rogalsky said that back then, it took them days to cover the grounds, but on Saturday, hundreds came to help.
“I’ve got 38 minutes,” he said looking at his watch. “I see people heading out now, so that means it’s been completed. And to place over 10,000 flags— just – it’s heartwarming. It is heartwarming.”
For many, it was their first time taking part in the symbolic tradition. Others know this place well.
“I come here pretty often,” said Ron Nanfito from Moodus.
Nanfito said he starts at the same spot, every year.
“I’m here today to honor all these veterans, one in particular,” he said, holding back tears. “My oldest brother, Phil.”
His brother, Phil served in the U.S. Navy and fought and passed in 2011.
And while not all the volunteers have a personal connection to the veterans, they all look up to the men and women resting here.
“They’re nice people and they’re heroes,” said Durham second-grader, Bruno Suraci. He may only be 8 years old, but Bruno already knows what he wants to be when he grows up. “An army man, and a firefighter, and a farmer.”