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Military-Bound West Hartford Students Attend Ceremony in Their Honor

Edwin Rodriguez, a Conard High School senior who plans to join the U.S. Marine Corps, receives his certificate of honor from keynote speaker Paul (Buddy) Bucha. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Local high school students who will be joining the military after graduation gathered in the  West Hartford Town Hall auditorium Tuesday to join their parents, families, and guest speakers in a ceremony to salute their courageous decision.

Military Inductees. Photo credit: Maddie Geerlof

By Maddie Geerlof

West Hartford students who will be joining the military after graduation attended a ceremony in their honor on Tuesday, May 30, as representatives of the American Legion and educators congratulated the students on their decision to serve the United States of America.

The Class of 2018 Military Inductees Ceremony was presented by American Legion Hayes-Velhage Post 96 and West Hartford Public Schools to salute the 23 students who represent each of the seven branches of the United States military.

“The young patriots we honor this evening are the best of the best,” said Chaplain Anthony J. Bruno (LTC) as he opened up the evening’s event with a prayer of gratitude toward the young men and women.

Throughout the ceremony, several speakers, including retired military personnel and a current ROTC student from West Hartford, presented advice as well as words of thanks and gratitude towards the students.

Superintendent of West Hartford Public Schools Tom Moore told the students, “Thank from our community, thank you from our schools, thank you from our state, thank you from our country, because we need people like you.” Moore added that he admired the students so much for “answering that call” of service and sacrifice they have made in their decisions to serve their country.

“I wanted to try something different for my life and my family,” said Conard High School senior Edwin Rodriguez as he shared what influenced his decision to join the military. Rodriguez, who is excited to join the U.S. Marine Corps in just a few months, explained that he has been considering the military for nearly three years now and wanted to take advantage of the opportunities that he was given to have new, memorable experiences as a Marine.

Adam Giroux, who was honored last year at the Class of 2017 Military Inductee Ceremony, is now a member of the ROTC Naval program at Fordham University and provided advice to the soon-to-be graduates. He shared that some of his best friends are his classmates in the ROTC program. Giroux said, “I would not have as high praise for the program or learn as much if I did not have my friends from [the program],” and encouraged each of the students to make the most of their time in their respective programs.  

The Conard High School Solo Choir offered a special tribute to the students by singing “God Bless America” as well as “American Soldier,” a song by country artist Toby Keith. Maggie Noble, a member of the choir as well as an inductee who will be attending Bridgewater State University and joining the Air National Guard with the hopes of becoming a pilot, said “I really feel these songs…[the lyrics] are going to be me in a few months.”

Paul (Buddy) Bucha, a Medal of Honor recipient for his service in the Army, was the keynote speaker. Bucha shared a lesson about leadership with the attendees and said there are five components of leadership including honor, confidence, competence, compassion, and humility. Bucha explained that honor is the foundation and basis of leadership, and said that all of the preceding elements are quintessential components of leadership.

Clara Barnes, a senior at Northwest Catholic and daughter of Town Council Minority Leader Chris Barnes will be attending the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. She shared that she always knew that she wanted to do some sort of military service, but also wanted to continue her education which is why she chose to attend the Coast Guard Academy. “I love the Coast Guard because it has a humanitarian mission … and [the Coast Guard] tries to save lives instead of taking them,” Barnes said.

Each of the students in attendance received a chord to be worn at their graduations, a certificate of honor, and a coin to commemorate their courage and sacrifice to serve. The ceremony was concluded with closing remarks from Mark Zydanowicz from the West Hartford Board of Education and a closing prayer by Fr. Bruno.

All of the students who were honored in the event are listed below:

  • Anthony Adam, Conard High School, Army ROTC
  • Clara Barnes, Northwest Catholic, U.S. Coast Guard Academy
  • Kathryn Barnett, Hall High School, U.S. Coast Guard Academy
  • David Birnbaum, Conard High School, U.S. Air Force
  • Malik Brown, Conard High School, U.S. Army
  • Cole Canarie, Hall High School, USMA West Point
  • Brianna Castillo, Hall High School, Army National Guard
  • Jack Costello, Loomis Chaffee, Navy ROTC
  • Abigail Eberle, Kingswood Oxford, Airforce ROTC
  • Andrew Eikleberry, Conard High School, Air National Guard
  • Nicholas Flynn, Northwest Catholic, Navy ROTC
  • Alejandro Held, Conard High School, Navy ROTC
  • Zachary Lagana, Conard High School, Navy ROTC
  • Jane Lee, Conard High School, Air Force ROTC
  • Richard Mitchell IV, Hall High School, Army ROTC
  • Maggie Noble, Conard High School, Air National Guard
  • Kenny Nguyen, Hall High School, U.S. Army
  • Andrew J.M.H. O’Brien IV, Conard High School ’12, U.S. Navy
  • Bejan Pazoli, Northwest Catholic, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Christopher Raymond, Northwest Catholic, Navy ROTC
  • Joshua Rivera, Hall High School, U.S. Air Force
  • Edwin Rodriguez, Conard High School, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Jaron Stake, Kingswood Oxford, Navy ROTC

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American Legion Hayes-Velhage Post 96 color guard. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Salute during the National Anthem. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

American Legion Vice Commander Moe Fradette. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

American Legion Post Commander Jeff Cole. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Superintendent of Schools Tom Moore.

2017 Conard High School graduate Adam Giroux, a Naval ROTC student at Fordham University. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Conard Solo Choir performs. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Keynote speaker Paul (Buddy) Bucha. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Brianna Castillo of Hall High School, who will join the Army National Guard, receives her certificate from Paul (Buddy) Bucha. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Conard senior Malik Brown (center) with Superintendent Tom Moore (left) and Conard Principal Julio Duarte. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Jack Costello, a Loomis-Chaffee graduate who will join the Navy ROTC program, with Paul (Buddy) Bucha. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Abigail Eberle with Kingswood Oxford Head of School Dennis Bisgaard. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Richard Mitchell with Hall Principal Dan Zittoun. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Minority Leader Chris Barnes with his daughter, Clara, who will attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy . Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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Maddie Geerlof


  • You posted a group picture of these brave young people that had one of them completely blocked out. That is totally wrong and you should publish a correction photo. I would be really upset if it was my family member, especially considering the nature of the occassion.

    • That was the best of the photos we had of the group where eyes were open. I did not notice that someone was hidden, however, the young man who was hidden happens to be the person who is in the main feature photo!

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