HARTFORD, Conn. – Connecticut Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, adjutant general for the Connecticut National Guard, and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Thomas Saadi inducted 10 local veterans into the state’s Veteran Hall of Fame at the Legislative Office Building, here, Dec. 6, 2019.
The Hall of Fame was established in November 2005 to help raise awareness about the achievements and contributions Connecticut veterans have made following their service in uniform.
“Even though they have already sacrificed so much through their military service, each one of these inductees continue to go above and beyond the call of duty to give back to their communities here at home,” Lt. Governor Bysiewicz said in a press release. “Some have dedicated their lives to helping their fellow veterans, while others volunteered to serve on state boards and commissions, became medical volunteers, and mentored youth. By naming these men and women to the Veterans Hall of Fame, we are ensuring that their contributions are not forgotten by future generations.”
The class of 2019 includes:
Robert T. Cahill, Sr. – U.S. Army Air Corps (posthumous)
Cahill, a New Fairfield native, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and served on active duty with the Air Corps as a navigator until 1945. He then continued his service in the Army Reserve until his retirement in 1978. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars for at least 20 years and participated in a variety of community organizations such as the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Commerce, the Kiwanis Club, and several town committees.
Alfred H. Comeau – U.S. Army
Comeau, a Waterbury resident, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1964 and volunteered to serve in Vietnam as a member of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). During his deployment from Nov. 1965 – Dec. 1966, Comeau and the rest of his unit received the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy during the Battle of the la Drang Valley. He left the service in 1967 and trained to become a journeyman toolmaker, served as a certified EMT and EMT-1 for 25 years, and also became an officer with the Connecticut National Guard Militia all-volunteer Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard. Comeau also spent many hours volunteering for the DAV, the St. Vincent DePaul Soup Kitchen, and Vitas Hospice Healthcare. He also volunteered and helped organize the state’s first Honor Flight.
Richard King Gorman – U.S. Navy
Gorman, an Enfield native, served in the U.S. Navy for more than two decades. Following his service, Gorman joined the American Legion and volunteered his time as a Veterans Service Officer where he assisted more than 100 veterans receive disability claims. He was also assisted in coordinating Honor Flights for World War II veterans to view the WWII memorial in Washington, DC. He continues to seek and promote ways to honor veterans in the community.
Jesse Monroe Harrison – U.S. Army Air Corps (posthumous)
Harrison volunteered for the Army Air Force as a pilot trainee and later commissioned as a 1st lieutenant. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Harrison was assigned to the 77th Troop Carrier Squadron in Missouri and would go on to fly in a twelve C-47 plane formation to drop paratroopers during the Invasion of Normandy. Following his service in World War II, Harrison accumulated more than fifty hours of community service to his hometown of Rocky Hill, serving on the Finance Board, Town Council, Insurance Committee, and Planning and Zoning Commission. He also chaired a high school scholarship fund and gave inspirational talks about WWII and the importance of community service.
Lenell Kittlitz – U.S. Coast Guard
Kittlitz, a Bloomfield resident, served with the U.S. Coast Guard out of Charleston, South Carolina and helped conduct numerous search and sea rescue missions during severe storms. She served on the planning committee and moderated “Our Unsung Heroes, a Day to Honor, Remember, and Heal” – a daylong program to help families and friends dealing with losses, to include suicides of service members, veterans, and first responders. During the government shutdown in 2018-2019, Kittlitz helped organize support and donation collection of food and supplies for Coast Guard families near New London. She has also been appointed by three different Connecticut governors to sit on the State Department of Veterans Affairs Board of Trustees where she helped develop sites and programs to assist veterans.
Leonard Gene Lanza – U.S. Navy
Since leaving active duty in the Navy in 1963, Lanza has been involved with Connecticut’s public school system for fifty-nine years, serving as a teacher, vice-principal, principal, superintendent of schools and educational consultant. As a resident of Simsbury, Lanza has been an active member of both the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts, planned and participated in Memorial Day parades for Simsbury and Tariffville, served as the secretary for the town’s first Charter Revision Commission (1976-1978), and named a Hometown Hero in 2017.
Patrick Nelligan – U.S. Army Reserve
Nelligan has served on both Active Duty and Reserve status for more than thirty-seven consecutive years and currently holds the position of Command Chief Warrant Officer for the Army Reserve Medical Command. Nelligan has created multiple events for his hometown of Bristol to include the Memorial Day Weekend Commemoration that averages more than 10,000 visitors annually. He also started the “Our Community Salutes” dinner, which is the second-longest-running recognition dinners in the country in which more than 200 high school seniors have been honored. As an employee of the Veterans healthcare Administration, Nelligan received a Connecticut VA Kindness Award for his involvement with a disabled veteran who was struggling to get his rehabilitation equipment operating properly.
Morton Melvin Pear – U.S. Air Force
Pear, a Middletown native, volunteered for many events to help others, veterans and non-veterans alike, as a member of the Office of Emergency Management, Middletown Medical Reserve Corps, and Community Emergency Response Team. He is a remedial instructor for the National Ski Patrol and helped recruit medical volunteers – and served as one – for the Special Olympics and Unified Program of Basketball.
John A. Sarlo – U.S. Army
Sarlo was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953 at the age of 19 and served in Korea. Upon his return to the states, he joined the Italian American War Veterans and Favale-Generali-Florio organizations. He served as the State Adjutant in 1965 and State Commander in 1975, and the National Adjutant in 1969 and National Commander in 1977. During his service at the national level, he was invited to discuss veterans’ affairs with President Kimmy Carter. He’s made regular visits to VA hospitals around the state
John “Jack” Shea – U.S. Army
Shea served in the U.S. Army from March 1966 to April 1969 as a 1st Lieutenant. After his service, he returned to Waterbury and currently serves as the Chairman of the Waterbury Veterans Memorial Committee and participates in multiple veterans’ activities, including: the annual Korean War Remembrance Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. He also visits veterans in the hospital and their homes, attends veteran funeral services, and visits local schools to inform students about the importance of remembering veterans.
Additionally, he has helped raise more than $72,000 to install the Connecticut Gold Star Mother’s Memorial in Waterbury City Call, assisted in creating a memorial for Navy Lt. (Rev.) Thomas Michael Conway, and is also a member of the Committee to Honor Waterbury Medal of Honor recipient Seaman Richard Ryan.
“These honorees, living and posthumous, collectively served for decades in the military – in WWII, Korea, Vietnam War, during the Cold War, and in Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Commissioner Saadi said in a press release. “Their courage and commitment, as demonstrated through their military service, set the foundation for their continued contributions in their post-military lives – we honor their military service and their contributions achieved for others – for their neighbors, Veterans, and communities, causes and residents across this state.”
Each inductee received a commemorative medallion and certificate to recognize their induction.
To learn more about the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame, visit: https://portal.ct.gov/DVA/Pages/CT-Veterans-Hall-of-Fame