Mayor Toni Harp and Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 joined New Haven residents Wednesday morning inside the Center Church’s whitewashed and mahogany pulpits to celebrate Veterans Day at the Elm City’s official service.
Around 80 people — approximately 20 of whom were veterans — listened to Harp and Blumenthal not only praise the city’s servicemen, but also call on the Elm City and state governments to strengthen support for Connecticut’s former soldiers. In particular, Blumenthal said the government should prioritize medical work for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury research.
“Our nation really needs to do better in keeping faith with our veterans,” Blumenthal said. “We need to leave no veteran behind, especially when it comes to the silent battle wounds.”
Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Veterans Committee, said the government must support initiatives that reduce the backlog in disability claims in Veterans Affairs hospitals. Over half a million veterans at a single time have waited to receive disability compensation or pension claims in the past two years, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
Blumenthal added that the government should also prioritize innovations in prosthesis, skill-training programs and mental health care.
Harp expressed similar views in her statement. While she called on adults to educate their children on the importance of the holiday, Harp also said the government must do more to ensure that veterans receive public education and employment benefits.
“We must do all we can to respect all that veterans have done,” Harp said. “We must recognize the service of the veterans.”
Harp added that prioritizing veterans is especially important considering that as of November, around 8 percent of Connecticut’s population has veteran status. The state is home to over 250,000 veterans.
A performance from the Unity Boys Choir of New Haven followed Harp’s and Blumenthal’s speeches. The two government leaders sat in silence as all faces turned to listen to the children’s choir sing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Several veterans also took the stage to speak. Frank Alvarado, a Vietnam War veteran who now collaborates with state veterans organizations to help former servicemen establish new businesses, moderated the event.
Charles Pickett, an Iraq war veteran and a teacher at the Sound School, delivered the closing remarks, calling on New Haven citizens to recognize veterans’ service to the country.
“We need not only peace with other nations, but also harmony with each other as well,” Pickett said. “When both cheeks have been slapped and push came to shove, it was our veterans who took up the defense for our great nation.”
The gathering inside the church Tuesday morning was followed by a ceremony placing wreaths on the War Memorial on the New Haven Green.