WWII veterans’ remains brought with honor to state cemetery in Middletown
MIDDLETOWN — They served with honor, and on Friday four World War II veterans were treated with that same honor as they were brought to their final resting place.
The four — two sailors, a soldier and an airman — died decades ago.
For any one of a number of reasons, their cremated remains were never claimed by their next of kin.
And so their ashes remained in the funeral homes that had handled their funerals.
Ten years ago, the state took steps to identify the remains of honorably discharged veterans and enable their remains to be brought the State’s Veteran Cemetery where they will rest in the columbarium, Laura Soll explained.
Soll is a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association, which worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs to arrange the ceremony.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman represented the state at the mid-morning ceremony, which played out under a deep blue sky.
Wyman was joined by DVA Commissioner Thomas J. Saadi, U. S Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Middletown Mayor Daniel T. Drew, as well as a cadre of veterans representing various organizations and a large contingent of the Patriotic Guard Riders.
The Riders are motorcyclists, many of them veterans, who often attend veterans’ funeral.
On Friday, they escorted two hearses carrying the remains of the four veterans to the cemetery from the Connecticut Veterans Home and Hospital in Rocky Hill.
When the contingent arrived at the cemetery, South District firefighters raised a massive American flag on an extended ladder from a ladder truck.
It provided an appropriate backdrop for the ceremony.
The first hearse pulled up to a tent that provided a modicum of protection from the fierce sun.
An honor guard of two soldiers from the Connecticut National Guard stepped forward to solemnly receive the remains of Arthur Chappell (1915-1977) who served in the Army Air Corps, and George W. Church (1922-2001) who served in the Army.
The soldiers carried the urns, which were embossed with the names and dates of the Chappell and Church and the emblem of their branch of the service, to a table at the front of the tent.
The process was repeated when the second hearse delivered the remains of sailors Carl Anthony Brannan, (1904-1966) and Charles Purdy Noonan (1915-1973) into the care of two sailors from the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.
A triangularly folded American flag rested against each urn.
Bringing the remains to the cemetery is part of “the warrior ethos.” which says no American who dies in service to the country is left behind, Saadi told the audience.
Another part of that same ethos is to insure that the veterans are given the military honors they earned.
Brannan, Chappell, Church and Noonan “may have been forgotten once,” but the ceremony Friday ensures “they will never be forgotten again,” Saadi said.
“These four Connecticut heroes” will lie among people who may not be family by blood,” Wyman said, referring to the brother and sister veterans who also served or are serving.
“We might not know these gentlemen but we will never forget them,” she added.
When Blumenthal rose to speak, two men in the audience, Middletown firefighter Michael Souza and Navy veteran William Willinsky, pointedly stood up, reversed their chairs and sat with the backs turned to Blumenthal.
Souza said Blumenthal “does not support the country” but instead “divides it.”
Willinsky, who is chairman of the Portland Veterans Committee, said Blumenthal is an “(expletive).”
“I just don’t like the way he grandstands down in Washington. He is constantly criticizing the president of the United States, which is very disrespectful,” Willinsky said.
The ceremony continued with Saadi presenting the Connecticut Wartime Service Medal to each for the men who were being honored.
As he did, the oversized flag billowed in the breeze over the neat rows of graves.
After he placed the medals nest to the urns, Saddi stepped back.
A Marine Corps League honor guard fired three volleys in salute.
Navy veteran and bugler Jonathan Worley of Old Saybrook played “Taps.”
One flag from the Navy veterans and one from the Army were taken, unfolded, and then re-folded in the practiced slow and steady pace.
A sailor presented a flag to Saadi and then an Army captain presented the second flag to Wyman.
As they did so, each man quietly spoke the time-honored words that mark such events: “On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”