One cannot help but be moved by the giving and receiving, especially when it’s for U.S. military veterans; men and women who have made great sacrifices.
So it went Friday at the Noank Shipyard, when a major presentation by Work Vessels For Veterans saw more than a dozen veterans honored and presented with computers and vessels including a car, truck and boat.
Work Vessels For Veterans was created in 2008 by lobsterman John Niekrash, who, after upgrading to a bigger boat, pondered what good he could do with his original craft. He gave the boat to a Rhode Island veteran and fisherman, and Work Vessels For Veterans was born.
“It was three years ago this month,” said Niekrash, a Mystic lobsterman for more than two decades. “We’re bringing it back home.” Noank Shipyard, Niekrash’s home marina, is a founding member of the program.
“We will go to where veterans need us and try to find the tools they need to succeed,” said Kathleen Burns, of the shipyard. “But we never forget our roots here, with our love of the water and its commercial endeavors.”
On a chilly but clear Friday, Connecticut veterans from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and National Guard - serving in conflicts from Vietnam to Afghanistan - were presented with laptop computers, a sailboat, an outfitted passenger van, a pick-up truck and a car. The vessels were given to help veterans pursuing education and career goals, and to create or maintain businesses.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal called it a “hand-up, not a hand-out."
One by one, the laptops were handed over to grateful veterans, most of whom will use them for business endeavors.
A veterans-run commercial cleaning service based in St. Louis will use the van; disabled Connecticut veterans continuing rehabilitation will use the sailboat; Nutmeg State National Guardsman will use the truck; and Omar Hernandez, a Guardsman from New London, will use the car to commute to school.
Blumenthal, newly installed as member of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, was joined by Congressman Joseph Courtney, and others including Sub Base Commander Marc Denno and State Sen. Andrew Maynard.
“We have a moral duty to help veterans,” Courtney said.