NEW BRITAIN - On this date in 1941 the Japanese launched an attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that signaled the United States’ entry into World War II. Eight U.S. Navy battleships where damaged and more than 2,000 lives were lost with more than 1,000 wounded.
As the years have passed, most of the veterans who returned from that war have died, yet the effort to honor the military men and women who defended the U.S. has not waned.
As a solemn salute to all who served in World War II and all those who have served in other conflicts and continue to serve today, a veterans group here will host an event on this, the 78th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
A teacher and a veteran will be honored at the New Britain Veterans Council’s annual Awards and Installation Dinner tonight.
The dinner at the VFW 511 Post, 41 Veterans Drive, will be from 6 to 9 p.m., said Tom Higgins, president of the council. The council includes all active veterans organizations in the city, said Higgins.
The Veteran of the Year is Bill Flynn, a recording secretary at the Northwestern Veterans-T.G.M post. Higgins said Flynn “works tirelessly on that unit’s behalf.” Flynn is also vice president of the New Britain Veterans Council and is a member of VFW Post 511.
Flynn helped in establishing a monument in Central Park that honors those who defended our country in the global War on Terror. Higgins said Flynn is also involved in the Wreaths Across America New Britain initiative, which places wreaths on the gravesites of veterans at Fairview Cemetery.
Flynn, a New Britain native, served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971 and finished his commitment in 1975. He raised three children with his wife of 37 years, Diane Donato Flynn. He worked for 48 years with Papa’s Dodge where he shared his love of cars with customers and the community. He now works at St. Francis Medical Center.
The veteran is also a volunteer. Flynn served on the Wethersfield/Rocky Hill YMCA board and is a member of New Britain’s Good Old Boys, which raises money for local charities.
The Patriotic Educator of the Year is Ivette Garcia from the Consolidated School District of New Britain Vance School.
“Ivette Garcia has long been involved in instructing her students and fellow faculty on the value of those who served,” said Higgins in an email.
Originally from New Jersey, Garcia has been a New Britain educator for 19 years. Higgins said that in addition to preparing her students for success, Garcia “works to expose them to the value of veterans and military service to our community, state and nation.”
Garcia encourages her students to support veterans. Last year, over 100 students made Christmas cards and ornaments for veterans at the Newington, Rocky Hill and West Haven veterans’ hospitals. Garcia also raised money to send 500 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to the hospitals. During the summer, Garcia volunteered and raised money to make improvements on veterans’ homes.
The honors will be bestowed at around 7:30 p.m. following the buffet dinner.
The awards dinner coincides with the 78th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. Higgins said they are referencing the 78 years “as it pertains to RPM (revolutions per minute), which was the recording speed for all that great music,” by hosting New Britain’s Band With No Name. Several local musicians make up the band, with the youngest member in his 70s and the oldest in his late 90s, who is also a World War II Navy veteran, said Higgins.
The council will also install officers at the dinner.
The New Britain Veterans Council will have another event on Saturday, Dec. 14, at noon at the Fairview Cemetery, at 120 Smalley St. The city’s DAV Chapter 8 and the national group Wreaths Across America will place 1,400 holiday wreaths on veteran gravesites, according to the council’s Facebook page.
Michelle Jalbert can be reached at email@example.com.