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Coast Guard Academy doles out special awards to vets

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NEW LONDON--Veteran's Day is a few days away, and to kick off a weekend of military appreciation the Coast Guard Academy in New London hosted a special  ceremony on Friday.

Five graduates were inducted into the Hall of Heroes, a select group of Coast Guard alumni honored annually for achievement and sacrifice.

Lt. Jim Ellis was one of the honorees. He commanded a cutter in battle during the Vietnam War. "It's very special to be inducted into a very elite group of Coast Guard people," said Ellis, who previously earned a Bronze Star with the distinguishing Combat V. He is a 1966 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy.

Ellis and the four others were selected among thousands.

"I am incredibly honored," said Capt. David Andrews, a helicopter pilot. He got the invite for a rescue mission he performed four decades ago. "This was probably the most difficult rescue I made. There were a number of others, but there are so many other people in the Coast Guard that do this on a daily basis," said Andrews who graduated in 1963.

The veterans are not just being humble. They returned to New London with a message for future graduates.

"You will be thrust into situations that require you to display effective leadership from the day you leave this institution," Ellis told a crowd of cadets watching the ceremony.

"The greatest recognition, the reward and the greatest honor is to save someone else's life," said Andrews.

The academy hopes students internalize lessons from these decorated men.

"To our cadets, they're the role models and the heroes that these cadets here look up to and these cadets want to be like these men some day," said Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz, superintendent of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

She said the Hall of Heroes induction has historically taken place in the spring, but this year administrators decided to reschedule it to coincide with Veteran's Day.

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