BRANFORD — One day in 2004, Brian Miniter walked into his Branford home. “Guess what, honey?” he called out to his wife Linda. “I volunteered to go to Iraq.”

Though he was 59 at the time, “I had to go,” the Army veteran told a packed house at Willoughby Wallace Library during a recent ceremony hosted by Jane Dougherty, Connecticut coordinator of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, an initiative that seeks to “cover service members and veterans touched by war,” as its website reads.

“People from my unit [the 143rd area support group] were being deployed,” he added. “I had to be there for them.”

His wife was used to this sudden change of plans. Four decades earlier, he’d gotten a draft notice for Vietnam. That was two days before their wedding.

“I owe it all to her,” Miniter said, his voice cracking, in a ceremony marked by gratitude and deep emotion.

Miniter was hardly the only veteran with a tale of valor.

Alex Palluzzi Sr., the co-marshal of Branford’s 2019 Memorial Day Parade, served as both an Army medic and a chaplain’s assistant on the front lines in Korea, giving communion and caring for the wounded while under heavy mortar fire and artillery bombardment.

As a member of the Naval Air Force from 1951 to 1959, Paul Rowan “chased the Russians all over the Atlantic and Mediterranean,” he said. Dana Murphy was part of a bomber crew on an anti-submarine warfare carrier deployed to Puerto Rico, Sicily, and Iceland from 1959 to 1965.

Frank Zemina “guarded the gold,” as he put it, at Fort Knox while serving in the Army from 1951 to 1959. Assigned to the Army’s motor pool from 1951 to 1953, Ernest Bertrand drove a deuce-and-a-half (2.5-ton truck) in and out of harm’s way in Korea. And Don Arel “jumped out of helicopters” as an Army field artillery officer in Afganistan from 1995 to 2004. He also served in Vietnam.

After Palluzzi Sr. graced the ceremony with a prayer, Miniter spoke for everyone.

“There could never be a better brotherhood than the service,” he said, wrapping his quilt more tightly around him. “That’s something all of us up here understand. To be recognized like this means the world.”

If you know a veteran you’d like to honor, visit www.qovf.org, find the “take action” tab, and click “request a quilt,” or email jane.dougherty@qovf.org.

Connecticut Media Group