By JEN CARDINES
When elementary schools need guest readers, when Southington High School graduates are honored for enlisting in the military, or when the town needs veterans to march in the parade, one person is always there. It’s no surprise he steps up to help Southington commence in these events, just as he stepped up to defend his country in 1942.
Retired Lt. Col. Walter J. Hushak is a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corp and the U.S. Air Force Reserve, having served as a fighter pilot in World War II, followed by a 27 year service record in the Reserve. For his military service and the contributions he makes to the community, the SHS Wall of Honor committee nominated him as a 2017 inductee.
Now in its 11th year, the wall boasts notable persons that were once students at the high school. Hushak was a 1941 graduate of Lewis High School, which became Southington High School in later years. Aside from his deployment overseas, he has been a lifelong Southington resident and a well-known face in town.
At nearly 94 years old, Hushak continues to speak with local students about his World War II experiences and provides them with first-hand knowledge of the era. He visits classrooms of all ages to read stories and share facts about the war because he believes it is important.
“It’s almost necessary and I hope other people do this and tell their experiences.” Hushak said. “What I’m doing is very minor. When I go to the high school, I tell them that we’re in a country where many people gave so much.”
He said when the WOH committee informed him that he was on their list, he thought, “Why me? I didn’t do anything remarkable.”
The committee thought otherwise.
“He was an easy choice,” said Bob Brown, a former SHS civics teacher and current Board of Education member. Brown created the wall to honor people for their achievements after graduation. “Walter is an icon to Southington people and an inspiration to many for what service to his country really means.”
Hushak’s work with Southington students only scratches the surface of his work in town and throughout the state. He attends an annual military enlistee’s luncheon for SHS graduates that committed to a branch of service. For two decades he’s helped coordinate the Wings of Freedom Tour at Waterbury-Oxford Airport, which displays vintage World War II aircraft. He’s even seen at the gym three times per week, never letting his age slow him down.
Last November, Hushak was honored as one of three marshals in the Connecticut Veterans Parade in Hartford, the largest veterans’ parade in New England. Much like the Wall of Honor, parade officials chose him for his lifetime devotion to the country and community.
“There’s no other country like this on the face of this earth,” said Hushak. “We have freedom because all these people before us had inspiration, courage, and in some cases gave their lives.”
Hushak will be formally honored during the wall of Honor ceremony on Monday, Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. outside of the SHS auditorium. During the celebration, he will receive an identical copy of the plaque hung on the wall.
To nominate honorees for future induction classes, written and verbal recommendations can be made personally to Bob Brown.
Applications can be found online on the high school website (www.southingtonschools.org/page.cfm?p=9034), can be printed in the school office, and submitted to Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or (860) 621-0416.