Fund-raiser will benefit Salute to Veterans

Greenwich veterans hold out an American flag during last year's Salute to Veterans — Ken Borsuk photo

Greenwich veterans hold out an American flag during last year’s Salute to Veterans
— Ken Borsuk photo

The Salute to Veterans will return to Greenwich next month, and residents right now have the chance to give it a boost.

A special fund-raiser will be held on June 1 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Norm Bloom & Son Oyster Co. in Norwalk to benefit the annual program that greets veterans with a simple “Thank you and welcome home” while promoting patriotism in town right before the Fourth of July. The fund-raiser will give people a chance to have a good time, check out some historic handmade wooden oyster boats still used to this day and support the cause of making sure the Salute to Veterans is all it can be. Former and active military will be on hand, and there will also be live entertainment in addition to an oyster bar for the military-themed night.

Those who can’t attend the fund-raiser can still help out either by donating funds or by signing up as a volunteer.

The actual Salute to Veterans will be held Saturday, June 29, in its traditional spot on the field between the Havemeyer Building on Greenwich Avenue and Town Hall. This is the second year of the salute’s return after a hiatus, and Alan Sharkany, a Marine veteran and a Weston resident, told the Post last week that he learned a lot after his first year.

“I realized that I needed a lot more help and I’ve got that this year,” Mr. Sharkany said. “I truly had no idea how labor-intensive it was, and I learned a lot about recruiting the right people, making sure I fit them in with their strengths and abilities and making sure I put them in the right seat on the bus.”

The final details for the June 29 salute are still a work in progress, but things are moving forward quickly. Medal of Honor winner Col. Jack Jacobs, who was honored for his heroism in the Vietnam War, will be a featured speaker, and there will be entertainment from the Liberty Belles, who have entertained troops all over the world as part of USO shows.

Last year’s return for the salute, which had become a real Greenwich tradition under the leadership of its founder, Jim Carrier, was a packed event, and Mr. Sharkany said he loved seeing that reaction.

“It showed me that Greenwich residents have great hearts and get involved and appreciate the veterans and the service and value they add, not just to the community but also to this great nation,” Mr. Sharkany said. “I love being able to do this. I love to serve and give, and I feel both honored and humbled to have this opportunity. It’s so meaningful to honor those who have sacrificed so much for us. It’s an opportunity for me to continue to serve in a meaningful way.”

A lot of people from throughout the Greenwich community are helping out behind the scenes, including Bruce Winningham, founder of the Greenwich Military Covenant of Care, which assists military families. Mr. Winningham hosted an event last December to welcome home local troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and told the Post he was happy to be a part of the Salute to Veterans.

“It means a lot to be able to welcome home our Greenwich service men and women who have been serving in combat in Afghanistan,” Mr. Winningham said. “We want to honor their service.”

But this event is not meant to focus just on the current conflict in Afghanistan. Selectman David Theis is on the lookout for people who have served in the United States military to be recognized. Mr. Sharkany said they intend this year to have World War II veterans in attendance invited onto the stage to be honored individually.

“We want to recognize each and every one,” Mr. Sharkany said. “It’s very exciting, because I think they deserve it. We want to have more of a focus on individual attendees and not have it be general in our focus. I don’t just want them in the audience as World War II vets. I want them to feel the personal touch and communicate to their heart how important they are to us.”

Mr. Theis said he was grateful that he had the chance to help Mr. Sharkany, whom he credited for “stepping up” to bring the Salute back.

“He kept this great tradition alive and he’s bringing together people in this community who understand if we don’t take a stand in the global war on terror, future generations are going to be fighting the same war 10 or 20 years from now,” Mr. Theis said. “We either have to do it there or else we’ll have to do it here. It’s important for me to remind people in this community that we have so much to be grateful for and we can’t take it for granted. We have to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices  so many of our veterans have made to maintain our way of life.”

There will also be an increased presence from Greenwich’s youth at this year’s event. Last year Kelly Weigold and Lizzy Trotta, the co-chairs and founders of Greenwich High School’s HEROES Club, spoke and this year they are speaking as well as recruiting their fellow students to help them with an artistic representation of the importance of the American military, from the American Revolution all the way to today. The project is still in its early stages, but it’s a very personal one to Kelly, whose father is an admiral in the U.S. Navy.

“His influence was very strong in me creating the club with Lizzy,” Kelly told the Post. “We lived abroad in Korea for two years. I lived on a military base and was immersed in the military culture. That instilled values in me, and when we got back I didn’t see as much patriotism here, so I decided this was a great way to do it at the high school.”

So far she reported getting a lot of good ideas from her fellow students, and Kelly said she is now reaching out to local artists, GHS art teachers and art societies to get people to participate. Mr. Sharkany calls the concept “amazing” by showing the development of the military through the birth and growth of the country.

“It’s great to see [the Salute] having the impact it ought to have,” Mr. Sharkany said. “It causes people to respond because they know it’s worthwhile and it reflects honor, character and patriotism to a high degree. It’s a very exciting to see people respond.”

People looking to make a donation may make checks out to Salute to Veterans, which is a recognized 401c3 nonprofit. They should be sent to Mr. Sharkany at 1 Old Mill Road, Weston CT 06833. Those who want to volunteer are urged to call Mr. Theis at Town Hall at 203-622-7710.


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