Several local Vietnam veterans and a legendary war dog hero will be the honorees at this year’s Memorial Day Parade to be held Sunday, May 24. The annual event, which also marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War, will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the High Plains Fairgrounds followed by a parade through town beginning at the Orange Center Road review stand. The ceremony will conclude with services at the Orange Center Road Cemetery.
Former Marine Lance Corporal Richard Cenami, who served from 1962-1966 will lead the ceremony as its Grand Marshal. Navy Lance Corporal Richard Manley, who served 1958-1964, will be Honorary Chief of Staff for the event. Full Navy Lieutenant Reverend Stoddard Tod King, who served 1966-1970 will receive distinction of honored veteran.
The Keynote speaker is Connecticut Bar Association Vice Chair/Legislation Liaison of the Military and Veteran’s Affairs Committee Emily Dewey Trudeau. Trudeau, currently Deputy Assistant State’s Attorney is also the former Special Assistant to the US State’s Attorney, and Judge Advocate General’s Corps Attorney, for the US Navy. Memorial Day Committee Chairman Bob Mirto said Trudeau is expected to give an interesting and engaging speech. “She’s a good speaker and as a former officer in Iraq, she worked closely with the Iraqi court system to aid in identifying and prosecuting terrorists trying to hurt our soldiers,” Mirto said. “She wants to talk about the selflessness of our American fighting personnel who give a lot and don’t ask for anything in return.”
For the first time the Memorial Day Committee will honor a canine ˗ World War I war bull dog mix “Sergeant Stubby”. The stray dog was adopted by the 102nd infantry 26th Yankee Division that was training in New Haven on the Yale campus during WWI. He was named the unit’s official mascot and was nominated for rank and then promoted to sergeant through combat and is recognized in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution. Stubby served for 18 months and participated in 17 battles on the Western Front. He saved his regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks, found and comforted the wounded, and once caught a German soldier by the seat of his pants, holding him there until American soldiers found him. Back home his exploits were front page news of every major newspaper.
Mirto stumbled upon Stubby’s achievements by accident and thought his New Haven connection would be an interesting sidebar to the day’s celebration. “I was amazed there was a local connection to this military history,” Mirto said. “Legend has it that the soldiers taught him how to salute, and smuggled him onto their transport convoy when they deployed to France. According to the story, when he was found out he was about to be sent back until the soldiers showed the captain how he could salute. It may be more legend than truth, but it’s a neat story with local roots.” After the war Stubby followed his owner to Georgetown University Law School and became mascot for the college’s football team. In recognition of Stubby’s distinction as a lifetime member of the American Legion, Orange’s American Legion ballplayers will present a framed poster of the dog at the ceremony which they’ll later hang at the Legion Hall. They will also distribute Stubby magnets and oversized buttons donated by Ed Belenski of Norwalk-based Pixels 2 Press. “It’s always good when kids connect with vets who fought a long time ago and we try to promote that every chance we get,” Mirto said.
The Committee encourages all Vietnam vets to attend the ceremony and be recognized. In the event of rain, exercises will be held in the HPCC auditorium.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent