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Veterans are remembered in the region

By Erin O'Connor

Staff Writer

WEST SPRINGFIELD On Nov. 4, the St. Thomas School Auditorium was a scene of emotion during the City's Fifth Annual Veterans' Day Breakfast.

James G. Berrelli Jr., director of veterans' services for the city, was honored with a plaque from members of the 2006 Stand Down Committee in appreciation for service that was done with the 2006 Stand Down.

The Stand Down Committee released information that they had helped 225 needy and homeless veterans at the 2006 event that is presented annually to veterans in need by providing various programs for veterans with no charge.

"He [Berrelli] is someone who excels and gives that 110%, more than others," Gumersindo Gomez, a U.S. Army, Vietnam Combat Veteran and member of the 2006 Stand Down Committee said.

"It is the veteran, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion," Berrelli said in quoting a poem he read.

"I honor the veterans from the past years and I honor Berrelli," State Senator Stephen J. Buoniconti said who was in attendance with Mayor Edward J. Gibson, State Representative James Welch, President Gerard Matthews of the City Council and Patrick Buoniconti, postmaster of the city.

The Veteran of the Year Award was given to Henry R. Tessier, the chairperson of the City Veterans' Council.

Tessier was given the award by Dr. Frederick Conlin Jr., a Korean War vet, member of the Veterans' Council and master of ceremonies; Gomez, Berrelli, Stephen Buoniconti, Welch, Gibson, Matthews and Patrick Buoniconti also participated in giving out this and other awards.

In an acceptance speech Tessier read a letter from his son, who is currently in service with the U.S. Navy.

Mike Sullivan of the Cup Restaurant was awarded the Businessman Appreciation Award.

The Woman Veteran of the Year Award went to Eleanor Wallace and was presented by Heidi Kruckenberg, coordinator of the Women's Veterans' Network of Massachusetts.

Recognition was given to soldiers of the Iraq War during the breakfast. Matt Couture, a soldier recently injured in Afghanistan, was honored during the ceremony and joined by his father, Jeff Couture.