MIDDLETOWN >> A pinning ceremony Friday added a wide smile to U.S. Navy veteran David Coleman’s face as his lovely wife, Cora, brushed grateful tears from her cheeks.
A small group gathered at Middlesex Hospital in the Goodwin Conference Center where St. Luke’s Community Services, under its The Community Follows the Patriot services umbrella, presented David Coleman with a plaque that acknowledges his military service, recording the dates from enlistment to discharge.
The Community Follows the Patriot, a new services banner at St. Luke’s Community Services, is focused on identifying veterans in need to rally support from local resources, including businesses and organizations. The efforts focus on a specific need and follows through with the veteran, Rodko said.
The hour-long event featured several brief speeches, including words from state Rep. Matt Lesser, Mayor Dan Drew, Middletown Police Capt. Gary Wallace, UConn Nursing School officials and others.
Calling David Coleman “a true American hero” in a letter read aloud, Sean Connolly, commissioner of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, invited Coleman to “Join me and other veterans in wearing [the American flag pin and service medal] often and proudly.”
UConn Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet William Malcolm, who was invited to pin David Coleman’s Connecticut Wartime Service Medal, admitted that he often receives public gratitude for his service when wearing his dress uniform. “I get thanked for things, for what these guys did,” said Malcolm, son of Dr. Millicent Malcolm, UConn School of Nursing.
It’s important for younger people today, especially service members, to connect with older generations of veterans, he said. Although he just met David Coleman, Malcolm said he already knew one or two things about the man. “I learned that David joined the Navy because he loved the sea,” he said. “He loved fishing.”
In a brief message of thanks, David Coleman recalled his days of service. “I can’t say I enjoyed myself,” he said, getting a few chuckles. “But, there was no greater bunch of people than the people I served with.”
By the end of the hour, Cora Coleman was overcome with emotion, wiping tears from her eyes. When people are struggling, it sometimes can seem that nobody cares, Cora Coleman said. She learned that just the opposite was true in Middletown. “It really makes you feel special,” she said of all the attention focused on the family. “You don’t get that every day.”
David Coleman was connected to St. Luke’s through a grant-funded program at the UConn School of Nursing aimed at helping veterans improve their quality of life.
“As part of project, we also got to learn from [David and Cora],” said Millicent Malcolm. Since many veterans get health care outside of the VA system, providers must learn “how to best act with veterans wherever they are found.”
As well-wishers gathered around to congratulate a beaming David Coleman, his son Bill said he wouldn’t be the man he is today without his dad. “He was a great father, too.”
Christina Purvis, a cousin, added, “I’m very proud of him.”