By SHERIDAN CYR
Every year in Southington, one event brings together veterans, town leaders, school administration, friends and family and inspiring young students. The annual Southington High School enlistee military recognition ceremony celebrated the brave leadership of 18 graduating SHS students who have enlisted in the military.
Superintendent Tim Connellan welcomed all to the luncheon. “On this day,” he said, “we are celebrating the choice you’ve made that we all truly appreciate and are in support of.”
Students were called up to the podium and greeted by Sergeant First Class Steve Pintarich and Commanding Sergeant Major Steve McCarty, members of the American Legion Kiltonic Post 72 in Southington. Each received a certificate from the legion, a blue star banner for family members to hang on their walls, a legion challenge coin with the branch of service they are going into, a special cord to wear on their graduation day, a pocket flag, and paracord bracelets.
“We’ve been hearing people coming in and talking about how this is the best event we do, and it really is,” said Pintarich. “It means a lot for us to do this.”
Honorees include Timothy Alcutt (Marine Corps), Cailin Barnes (Army National Guard), Cameron Clynes (Army ROTC), Drew Downey (Marine Corps), Alyza Hernandez (Marine Corps), Alexander Kuhr (Army ROTC), Andrew Krar (Military Academy), Hunter London (Army), Jake Lucco (Navy), David Mackay (Air Force), Jake Monson (Coast Guard Academy Prep), Daniel Minton (Army), Samuel Raia (Air Force), Richard and Adam Tillotson (Army), Jared Vath (Army), Brett Wolff (Air Force ROTC) and Dorian Sa (Navy).
Fourth grade teacher from Plantsville Elementary School and veteran of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the Army offered the young recruits an inspiring message and a few challenges to keep in mind.
“Thank you for choosing to serve. You all are answering your call to service and your town has 100 percent support for you,” said Lalla. He shared a story of the moment where he realized he wanted to join the military. He worked as a lifeguard at Wharton Brook State Park and saved someone from drowning. He described the feeling of having a person’s life in his hands and being able to keep them alive. “The ball started rolling at that point and I knew I wanted to be in the military.”
Lalla challenged the young recruits to return to Southington when they decide to leave the military, and to continue to serve the community by taking up jobs and volunteer positions that serve the town. He also urged recruits to connect with the Veterans Association upon their return and take advantage of the benefits that are offered to them.
On behalf of the Board of Education, chair Brian Goralski commended the students for their decision to join the military.
“You are all role models for me, and we could not be more proud,” said Goralski. “When you come back, we hope you choose to lead in Southington, but we know you will be leaders wherever you go.”
Town Clerk Kathy Larkin encouraged family members to sign up to have their recruits featured in the Wall of Honor located at the Town Hall. The Wall of Honor was created by a group of military mothers in 2009. It features a photo and a name plate of Southington service men and women who are on active duty.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.