Thank you for your service.
That was the message repeated over and over Sunday at the VFW hall in New Britain, where a dozen Iwo Jima survivors were honored.
“I’m really surprised at how much support we get,” said Thomas Lemme a veteran of World War II.
Uniforms, pictures, and posters provided a step back in time, as did ladies dressed as 1940’s pinup girls.
“That’s proof right there. They like me I guess,” said Lemme pointing to the lipstick on his cheek.
Only time has separated some from the painful memories of the war.
“There are times that you can see it, feel it. You can smell it. It never goes away,” said Stan Dabrowski.
Considered part of the greatest generation these World War Two veterans don’t like to be called heroes.
“I got scattered with shrapnel through the body. Nothing real serious,” said Lemme.
Those sacrifices are what inspired Gary Roy to create the annual survivors victory ride, bringing together motorcyclists and World War Two veterans.
“You have 75 or 100 guys come up to you and thank you all day for what you did in WWII you see a tear in their eye, and they deserve every bit of it,” said Roy.
Riders escorted the veterans to the national Iwo Jima memorial along the New Britain/Newington line. Then they took off on a poker run, raising money to support the memorial.
“I think it’s an exceptional effort for them to come here,” said Rosario Lombardo, a recent recipient of the Bronze Star.
Rene Gagnon, Jr. the son of one of the six men who raised the American Flag on Mt. Suribachi after the battle of Iwo Jima, helped raise a 48 star flag during Saturday’s ceremony.
Organizers also announced that the memorabilia on display at the VFW will become part of a traveling World War II museum next year.