VFW Post 10059 gives Monroe’s veterans a place to call home

The post serves veterans in Trumbull, Monroe, Shelton, Easton and Redding

VFW Post 10059 Auxiliary President Pat Tivadar, left, with, from left, Post Commander Graham Bisset, Auxiliary Treasurer Dona-Lyn Wales and Dan Sacco, program director for VFW Post 10059. The four attended the groundbreaking of the new veterans and first responders center at 1 Veterans Circle in Trumbull Friday morning.

Dona-Lyn Wales’ late father, Donald Wales, served as a coxswain in the Navy, while fighting for his country aboard the U.S.S. Rankin in the Asian Pacific during World War II. After the war, Wales father became a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10106 in his hometown of Monroe.

Donald Wales went on to serve as post commander and was chairman of the town’s Memorial Day Parade. Dona-Lyn’s late mother, Evelyn, got involved it Post 10106’s Auxiliary and Dona-Lyn and her brother, Donald Jr. helped out during veterans’ events, while growing up.

In the 1980s, VFW Post 10106 was dissolved because its membership, which consisted of veterans of both World Wars, had dropped too low to sustain it. Dona-Lyn Wales saved her father’s old scrapbooks of post events and parades it had led with members of Sippin-Winspur American Legion Post 176, which still exists.

“I didn’t want to throw it out,” Wales recalled. “I knew there was a VFW Post in Trumbull and I offered to give it to them.”

Years ago, VFW Post 10059 in Trumbull expanded its membership to include veterans who served overseas and reside in Monroe, Shelton, Easton and Redding.

The post accepted the scrapbooks 10 years ago. But last year, Monroe Town Clerk Vida Stone, who organizes Monroe’s Memorial Day Parade, told Wales the Monroe Historical Society would love to have the scrapbooks.

Recognizing that it was an important piece of Monroe’s history, members of VFW Post 10059 happily returned the scrapbooks to Wales and Stone during one their meetings.

“I asked them if they had an auxiliary and they said they were working toward getting one,” Wales recalled. “I attended their meetings and became knowledgeable about the process.”

Wales said the post did a lot of the recruiting for the auxiliary, which was incorporated in December of 2023 and Wales became a member. She currently serves as its treasurer.

Dan Sacco, program director for VFW Post 10059, talks to the auxiliary during its meeting at Trumbull Public Library Wednesday.

While not veterans themselves, VFW auxiliary members can be spouses, children, grandchildren and siblings of veterans who served overseas.

The VFW Post 10059 Auxiliary is led by President Pat Tivadar, whose father was a frogman in the Naval Combat Demolition Unit, the precursor to the Navy Seals, during World War II. He fought on Omaha Beach on D-Day.

The Post 10059 Auxiliary meets on the second Wednesday of every month either at Trumbull Public Library or the Shelton Community Center. But soon VFW Post 10059 and its auxiliary will have a new building to go to at 1 Veterans Circle in Trumbull.

VFW Post 10059

Graham Bisset serves as commander of VFW Post 10059. He served in the Army from 1964 to 1966 during the Vietnam War and was deployed in the country his last year.

On Wednesday evening, Bisset and Dan Sacco, program director for VFW Post 10059, attended the auxiliary’s meeting at Trumbull Public Library. Sacco served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam.

Many local veterans attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new veterans and first responders center in Trumbull Friday.

Sacco spoke to the auxiliary about the upcoming Poppy Drive, as well as the history of how the poppy became the symbol of the fallen soldier. Over Memorial Day weekend, one drive will be outside the Stop & Shop at 470 Monroe Turnpike in Monroe.

Sacco also talked about the logistics of getting members to Memorial Day parades for Monroe, Trumbull, Shelton, Easton and Redding.

VFW Post 10059 has 118 members. Among them are veterans who served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam with a couple of post 9/11 veterans.

“There’s a camaraderie and we help other veterans,” Bisset said. “Guys who have been to war and don’t talk about it with their families will open up with other veterans and talk about it here.”

Post members are always checking in on each other when someone misses meetings and events to ensure everything is okay. They provide assistance when members are in poor health and a bereavement detail at wakes.

VFW Post 10059 members place miniature American flags on veterans’ graves at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Trumbull, as well as other cemeteries in towns their post serves.

Among its programs are the Teacher of the Year to recognize educators who promote veterans programs in schools, the Patriot’s Pen essay contest for middle schoolers, and the Voice of Democracy, an essay contest for high school students encouraging a better understanding and appreciation for America, while working to foster patriotism among today’s youth.

VFW Post 10059 members participate in Memorial Day parades and are always active on Veterans Day. Last Veterans Day they participated in 14 different events, including visits to nine schools.

VFW Post 10059 attained the status of an All-American Post. Out of over 6,000 VFW posts globally, only five percent achieve such status — and only seven of Connecticut’s 126 VFW posts attained it last year.

“We did it last year and we’ll do it again this year,” Bisset said.

New building on the way

VFW Post 10059’s building, which was once an old ice house, was condemned in 2017 and the post had to find other places for its meetings. But plans are in the works for a brand new building at 1 Veterans Circle in Trumbull.

Uniformed veterans and police officers were among the crowd gathering beneath a large tent overlooking Kaatz Pond in Trumbull Friday morning. A row of shovels with white hard hats hung from the wooden handles jutted from a pile of dirt nearby.

A groundbreaking ceremony was being held for the Veterans and First Responder Center, a 5,500-square-foot multi-use facility for Trumbull and the region’s veterans, first responders, small businesses, civic groups and residents.

The $4.2 million building will have a memorial gallery just beyond the entrance, a conference room, grille area, gathering room, two meeting rooms, a deck and a fire pit.

One thing Bisset said the building will not have is a bar as the post is trying to break away from that old image of veterans halls filled with smoke and veterans drinking beers together. VFW Post 10059 makes a constant effort to be active in the communities it serves.

Bisset said Nagy Brothers Construction Co. of Monroe is the main contractor.

Once completed, the building will house programs offering access to jobs, healthcare, workforce training and other services to over 30,000 veterans in the region. And first responders will use the facility for workforce training needs including dive and water rescue training.

Friday’s ceremony was led by Trumbull First Selectman Vicki Tesoro and building committee chairman Raymond Baldwin Jr.

“This center will be a special place to expand services and opportunities for our veterans for years to come,” Tesoro said.

State and federal elected officials instrumental in securing funding for the facility attended the ceremony, including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Jim Himes. U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy could not make it.

As the VFW and American Legion posts gather inside the new center, Blumenthal said the older veterans will serve as mentors to the younger ones. “The most important advice for veterans is from another veteran,” he said.

Blumenthal also thanked all of the veterans and first responders for their service.

“I just want to say what a thrill it is to see all of this come together,” Himes said of the project.

Several area first selectmen, police chiefs and members of the state delegation attended the ceremony, along with members of VFW Post 10059 and American Legion Post 141.

State Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-22nd, talks about securing funding for the new center.

Among the local state delegation, Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-22nd, said the center was the first project that came before them after she became co-chairwoman of the legislative bonding subcommittee.

“We owe this to you,” she said to the veterans and first responders in the crowd. “We did not do you a favor. I did what I was supposed to do. You are our legacy. This is your tax dollars that we are putting back into the community.”

Monroe Police Chief Keith White said his officers will use the new facility for joint training for emergency responses with other agencies in the region.

“There’s a lot of collaboration with police departments now,” White said, “and training together will be an asset to all of the departments.”

“The rendering is beautiful,” Monroe First Selectman Terry Rooney said of plans for the new facility. “I’m glad our elected officials did the right thing for our veterans and first responders by providing the facility they need.”

State Rep. Tony Scott, R-Monroe, said he is grateful that Monroe’s veterans of foreign wars can join VFW Post 10059 after Monroe had lost its own VFW post years ago.

“It’s nice for veterans of Monroe to have a place to meet veterans from surrounding towns,” Scott said. “This camaraderie will only help foster stronger relationships within the military community.”

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