By TAYLOR HARTZ
School officials saluted 13 Southington High School seniors at a special ceremony to aknowledge their enlistment in the United States military.
Following their graduation from Southington High School, the students will serve in the Army National Guard, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and U.S. Navy, with one student attending the U.S. Naval Academy and two entering Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs—the University of Connecticut Army ROTC and the Eastern Connecticut State University Air Force ROTC.
To honor the enlistees, the Southington Municipal Center was covered in red white and blue décor, as town representatives, educators, and families gathered to hear speeches of well wishes and present the students with tokens of recognition.
Superintendent of Schools Timothy Connellan opened the ceremony, which included the distribution of military cords by Southington school administrators, and remarks from John Brian Durbin, Southington High School social studies teacher and retired lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army.
As the group enjoyed a lunch provided by CC Carvers in downtown Southington, dozens of veterans were asked to stand, recognizing parents, current recruiters, town officials and members of the American Legion Kiltonic post 72—among them were Durbin and town manager Gary Brumback, who shook hands and told stories about serving together in Germany.
Durbin, who gave the third annual luncheon’s keynote address, began with a message of gratitude. “Thank you for volunteering to protect our way of life,” he said.
He then provided the students with what he called the “Durbin Dozen”—twelve pieces of advice for their future endeavors that included never making the same mistake twice and doing the right thing even when no one is looking.
After speeches by Connellan, Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski, and and Town Council member Reverend Victoria Triano, the students were presented with what Goralski called “tokens of appreciation and symbols of what they’re about to do.”
The students were given a red, white, and blue cord to wear proudly at graduation, coins from the American Legion, a World War I and World War II blue star banner for their families, and a pocket flag from the women’s auxiliary.
The American Legion also presented two students, twin brothers Griffin and Collin Litke, with laptops and webcams. The twins, entering into the Army National Guard, completed their basic training last summer, and will now attend military job training in Missouri.
Although the brothers said that their parents are more at ease with their decision to enlist because they will be serving together, the webcams and laptops will allow them to keep in touch with their family and friends here in Southington throughout their service.
Remaining in contact with their hometown community was a message that was repeated throughout the ceremony.
Goralski and Triano both urged students to stay safe, keep in touch with their families, and remember that “we’re proud of you now and we’ll be proud of you always” said Goralski.
Steve Pintarich of the American Legion, who participated in the “coining” ceremony and is actively involved in the laptop donation program, said the legion wants current and future enlistees to know that “we care about what they’re doing and we are going to support them.”
Pintarich said the legion aims to act as a support system for military members before, during and after their service, along with providing a local resource for parents and families, offering advice and insight to any questions and concerns.
This lasting connection and community is something that several students said they are looking forward to.
Eric Minton, entering the U.S. Navy, will be a third generation submariner. He said he is most looking forward to “camaraderie and brotherhood,” as he follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, aunt, and uncle, pursuing a dream he has had since childhood.
The third annual ceremony offered the enlistees and their families a strong sense of community support and pride, as they celebrated their graduation and decision to serve their country.