Connecticut Veterans Cemetery in Middletown welcomes unclaimed cremains of US service members
The Middletown Press, Conn. November 5, 2023
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — On a crisp fall day under brilliant skies, six U.S. military veterans who served during WWII through the Vietnam era were honored posthumously for making the ultimate sacrifice for this country.
A solemn military honor ceremony was held Friday morning in Middletown at the State Veterans Cemetery on Bow Lane, with many dignitaries, veterans, military members, families and others in attendance.
For the past nine years, the state Department of Veterans Affairs and the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association have partnered in the program where the cremains of unclaimed personnel are carried from the DVA’s Rocky Hill campus to be inurned at the cemetery’s columbarium.
Those honored Friday included Army Air Force dental technician Bernice Greenstreet Record, who received the American Service Medal and WWII Victory Medal. She died in Cheshire in 2007.
She was in the military when 16 million Americans were at war, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said. “She served with valor, and today we pay tribute to her as we do to her husband,” Army Air Force utility clerk Pvt. Roland Record. He died in Waterbury in 1998.
Others honored were Army Tec 5 Wilfred Carpentier, who died in 1976 in Derby. He served during WWII in locations that included Algeria, French Morocco, France, Italy, Tunisia and Rhineland.
His recognition is almost 50 years overdue, officials said.
In addition, Air Force Airman 1st Class Joseph Henry O’Brien II, who died in Southbury in 2021 and earned the Good Conduct Medal, was inurned, as was Navy Fireman Apprentice Michael Joseph Gruttadauria Jr., who served aboard the USS Essex and in Hartford in 2021; and Army Cpl. Robert Coston Sr., who died in East Hartford in 2014.
In 2009, Connecticut established new protocols to identify unclaimed cremated remains of honorably discharged U.S. veterans in the state’s funeral homes. The goal is to provide them a dignified burial with full military honors, the DAV said.
All six were presented Connecticut Wartime Service Medals.
“They contributed to the very rich tapestry of our country’s history. It’s our duty to ensure that our heroes get final resting places,” Bysiewicz told those gathered.
“The impact that you have on our veterans and the veteran community every day cannot be overstated,” Commissioner Brig, Gen. (Ret.) Ronald Welch told the veterans and others in attendance. “Our ceremony today is simple, yet filled with tradition,” he said.
Welch then spoke about how service members are true patriots, quoting the words of President Harry Truman.
“’Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in service of our great country can never be repaid. They have earned the undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices,’” Welch said.
The CFDA finds out about these service people after being contacted by social services personnel and local funeral homes, President Lionel J. Lessard Jr. said prior to the ceremony.
“We know who they are,” he explained, adding that it is unknown why some of these individuals’ cremains go unclaimed for so long.
A couple of the individuals no longer had families to care for their remains, Lessard said. “At the time of their death, we were asked to care for them. They could have already had some type of service ... but for some reason, there was no final disposition or burial,” he added.
“It’s something we do every day,” Lessard said. “Families put their trust in us to care for loved ones. It gives us a special feeling.”
Gov. Ned Lamont pointed to the soldiers fighting in Ukraine and Israel. “These are veterans who step up every day to fight for their families, their homes and freedom,” he said of all military personnel.
“Freedom is not free,” Lamont said. “That’s why we never forget. We are their family.”
Welch spoke about the privilege of laying these men and women to rest. “Although ... (they) may have passed without family or friends to honor them, we gather today to provide the military honors they earned in service to their nation.”
All those who turned out Friday were there to make certain that no service person is left behind, an echo of the U.S. military creed.
“We make a statement by being here that we refuse to forget, we refuse to abandon any man or woman who has worn the uniform and served this country,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said.
“Unfortunately, for reasons we will never know, probably, they were abandoned, forgotten. Today, we say thank you to them for your service,” the senior lawmaker added. “As we honor these brave souls, let us commit that we will leave no veteran behind in life or in death.”
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