By CEAC Veterans Committee Chairman Gerry Gallo PER
On Monday, August 8, I along with NW District Veterans District Chair Stuart Topliff, Jamie and Peter DePaola, members of Manchester Lodge, sat down with the newly appointed Commissioner of the CT Department of Veterans Affairs Brigadier General Ron Welch (Ret) and Department of Veterans Affairs Manager of Community Advocacy Lindsay Jesshop, for an introductory and planning meeting. The meeting was held at the Commissioner’s Office at the Connecticut Veterans Hospital – Rocky Hill.
Stuart and I were representing the Connecticut Elks Association and Jamie and Peter were representing “Backpacks For Life”, which has provided 500 backpacks for homeless Veterans in their North east Region, and the Coventry Patriots Day Race, which raises money for Veterans causes.
The session started with discussing the potential for a Veterans Service organization that the 30 Lodges of Connecticut could jointly support with financial and/or volunteer support. The Commissioner came up with several suggestions such as Gold Star Families event, Wreaths Across America, or hosting a statewide Veterans Family Day. Locations such as Lake Compounce, Veterans Base Camp Stafford Motor Speedway or Lime Rock Park. We also considered Lodges with ample land and a pavilion to host a day, such as Glastonbury Lodge and Torrington Pond. After a lively and productive discussion, it was decided we would reconvene within the next two weeks, to discuss the possibilities further.
Additional discussions regarding individual Lodges Veterans Programs. Manchester Lodges application for the traveling Vietnam Memorial, “The Wall That Heals” for 2024. This effort would require over 700 volunteers over the six days to ensure the “Wall” is properly attended around the clock. While the financial burden will be borne by Manchester Lodge, we will invite all Lodges to participate in any way they wish. We will also be reaching out to Elks Riders to participate in the motorcycle escort.
Left to Right, Lindsay Jesshop, Dept of Veterans Affairs Manager of Community Advocacy, Stuart Topliff, PER. New Britain Lodge, CEA Veterans NW District Chair, Gerry Gallo, PER CEA State Veterans Chair, brig, Gen. Ron Welch, Commissioner CT Dept of Veterans Affairs, Marine Sgt. Maj. Jamie DePaola (ret) and Marine Captain Peter DePaola, both with Backpacks for Life and Coventry Patriots Day Parade. Jamie, Peter and Gerry are also on the committee to bring the “Wall That Heals” to Manchester.