Southington Commentary: Veterans don’t have to be alone

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Things change day to day, so we never know what tomorrow will bring. Our hopes and dreams do not always work out the way we planned. We believe that bad things are supposed to happen to others, not us, our family or friends. We see good people suffer and wonder why?

I’ve sat with veterans that were dying, holding their hands and praying for them. One veteran in particular had no family to stay with him. I put a rosary around his hand and mine, and I asked God to bless him. I looked at his hands and could only think of the hard work they’ve done over the years, the hugs he gave to his late wife who passed away a few years earlier.

I thought about how they held his children years ago—the ones that were too busy to come and visit their dad. I thought about the Korean war he fought in, the lost buddies that he would soon meet again.

I even thought about how I had the privilege to help him to obtain veterans benefits a few years ago, along with an honor for his military service by the government of South Korea.

After a few hours of sitting with him, the veteran expired, his life was complete. God gave him a mission on earth, and it was done. I was filled with sadness as I let go of his hand, walked away from his bed and down the lonely hallway, feeling sad about how many people die without anyone there beside them. Of course, we don’t die alone. There are angels there waiting to carry us up to Heaven.

Dealing with veterans and their families, as a veterans advocate in Southington, is one of the greatest jobs that I could ever volunteer to do.

The Town of Southington has provided an office in town hall designated to assist veterans and their families. The amazing veterans seeking help and hope have stepped into that office and were relieved that help was in reach.

There are many resources available. We hold a coffee hour on the third Wednesday of each month in partnership with the Southington Public Library. Veterans can come to talk, seek answers to questions, and enjoy camaraderie with other veterans. They can have coffee and listen to resources that come to share with the group.

I want to advise veterans that seek to be buried in the State Veterans Cemetery in Middletown that they can contact the great staff that oversee this beautiful resting place at : Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs Cemetery and Memorial Services, 287 West St., Rocky Hill, CT 06067. Their hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Their phone number is (860) 616-3688 and they can be reached by fax at (860) 616-3561.

The State Veterans Cemetery in Middletown is the largest state-operated veterans cemetery in Connecticut. It is under the administrative control of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs and its commissioner. Burial in the State Veterans Cemetery is reserved for eligible veterans and their spouses. Grave markers are also provided.

John DeMello is a member of the Southington Veterans Committee. The committee can be reached at Town Hall, 75 Main St., by phone at (860) 276-6299, or by email at SouthingtonVets@southington.org.