Connecticut veterans honored at dedication of new state memorial

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HARTFORD--For the first time, Connecticut residents have their own place to look back and reflect.

The state's first official veteran's memorial was opened on Monday, and state leaders, servicemen and veterans were on hand to dedicate it.

"This is the first actually statewide recognition memorial for our veterans in Connecticut, it's a longtime coming and well deserved," said Seam Connolly, the commissioner of the Department of Veteran's Affairs.

The memorial sits just by the state Capitol, in front of the armory. It features five granite pillars, which honor each branch of the military--Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force.

"At every hour of the day, we should honor our vets," said Gov. Dan Malloy at the ceremony.

It took eight years and more than $1 million in fundraising to erect the structure, but it's there to honor the more than 1.3 million who have served from the state. Currently, about 277,000 soldiers and veterans live in Connecticut.

"This has been a journey to say the least, and so excited to have veterans here, and our families our supporters and the community coming together. And this is the beginning of a trajectory, that'll be here forever," said Lt. Col. Lesbia Nieves of the Army National Guard.

Army Sgt. Edward Skehan, who served in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge and is now 97-years-old, attended the dedication ceremony, thrilled to see it finally open. "It's a memorial for all the soldiers, everyone here, the volunteers that helped and everyone else," Skehan said.

One of Skehan's compatriots, who also served at the Battle of the Bulge, was in attendance as well for the special event.

"It's very nice, a very, very nice memorial and it took an awful long time for it to come, but now that I see it I guess it was worth waiting for," said Army Sgt. Lou Celentano, a 94-year-old WWII veteran.