As Taps played and the gun salutes exploded around the state Wednesday, there were those who stood in solemn respect. Soldiers from all eras, wars and conflicts proudly wore their true badges of honor. Veterans Day for them is not just a day on the calendar, it’s a day of reflection.
In Bristol, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, the American Legion, Post 2 rang the USS Kidd ship bell in remembrance of the end of World War I.
In New Britain, wreaths were laid at the foot of the WWI Memorial Monument, as ceremonies showcased the sacrifices made by American soldiers from all eras and service branches.
In Middletown, at the State's Veterans Cemetery, Gov.Ned Lamont and Sen. Richard Blumenthal honored those who served.
"We come here every year and repeat, freedom is never free," said Blumenthal.
Those who enlisted and witnessed the realities of war know that all too well.
“We sacrificed everything we signed a blank check for our lives.” said Middletown’s Larry Riley who served in Vietnam from 1966-1970.
Riley remembers returning to the US without a hero’s welcome. Today though he’s grateful things are different.
“It’s wonderful being a veteran now. You can walk around with your head up high where before you’re always walking around with your head down at the ground,” he said.
Albert Hamrah is a 92-year-old, WWII veteran. He began serving in Japan at just 18. He’s thankful he returned home but remembers those who did not and are buried in the State’s Veteran Cemetery.
“It’s a special day for all these poor souls who are here and you try to respect them,” said Hamrah.
Edward Mackiewicz is a Marine who served in the Korean War. He was wounded twice. Once by shrapnel and another time received a concussion after being blown out of the trenches. Mackiewicz received two purple hearts for his bravery. On this day though, his thoughts remain with others.
“I think about the ones I left behind on the hill,” said Mackiewicz, with tears running down his cheek. “I’m thinking about my buddies who helped me out of there.”
Like many veterans, Mackiewicz was emotional but very proud of his service.
“We did our sacrifice to keep our country clean,” he said.
Talking with veterans, there was a distinct sense of pride and honor in knowing their time in uniform was being received with gratitude.