Eastern Connecticut has one of the strongest concentrations of military personnel in the Northeast and national, state and local representatives gathered at the second annual Military Appreciation Breakfast Friday morning to thank invited veterans and active-duty soldiers for their service.
"This is a unique opportunity to show respect and appreciation to all of our men and women in uniform," said state Sen. Andrew Maynard, a Democrat who represents Groton and Stonington in the 18th Senate District.
Maynard said the region strongly values the military community and he's making an effort to forge partnerships wherever possible.
Maynard said that he and the chamber have started an "aggressive program for military family discounts and ways that businesses can help lighten the load to help families who are making such a variety of sacrifices."
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, and John Casey, president of Electric Boat, expressed appreciation to each branch of the military for their public and private sacrifices at the breakfast hosted by Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by General Dynamics Electric Boat.
"I'm pretty proud to see this level of recognition in the presence of leaders at the national level, the highest state level and our local community level…to recognize our men and women in uniform is very touching," said Rear. Adm. Richard Breckenridge.
Breckinridge said the breakfast "well reflects the honor that is due to those of you out there that make those sacrifices day in and day out to secure our country."
Ryen Mullen, a machinist's mate based in Groton, said that despite the focus on anticipated dwindling of funds for defense, this year's breakfast was upbeat and a good way to start the day.
Lt. Col. Scott Panagrosso said he selected a "cross-section of deserving soldiers" who work for him at the Groton-New London Airport to attend.
"They're always awesome," he said of the second annual breakfast.
The breakfast came on the heels of a victory in Libya after Moammar Gadhafi was killed Thursday and Breckenridge gave special recognition to the EB-built submarine USS Florida as one of the unsung heroes in the Libyan revolution.
He said it was the first time the ship had been used in combat, "and it performed flawlessly." Breckenridge said one of the unheralded stories about the conflict was the initial input and attacks led by United States' sea services in the Gulf of Sidra, which played a critical role in the battle.
He said surface vessels and submarines "kicked down the door to soften up Libyan defenses to support the allies."