Business Community Gathers to Thank Military at Chamber Event
Groton– November 1 – Over 300 members of the military, veterans, government leaders, business leaders and community members gathered at the Mystic Marriott Hotel on November 1 for the 10th Annual Military Appreciation Breakfast.
The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern CT hosts this breakfast each year to create an opportunity for the business community to gather in a show of support and gratitude for those who serve in the military. Through the generous support of General Dynamics Electric Boat, Foxwoods and Dunkin’, active duty members of the military were invited to attend as special guests.
Leaders from the military community offered their remarks about the special relationship the military enjoys with the community of eastern Connecticut.
Rear Admiral Butch Dollaga, Commander, Undersea Warfighting Development Center recounted his experiences as a submariner in Groton as a junior officer to his current work on tactics in the undersea domain. “I think the United States builds the best, most lethal, most capable submarines in the world and it starts with Electric Boat,” said Dollaga, sharing the information that seven submarines from Groton were deployed and completed 24 missions vital to national security.
Electric Boat President Kevin Graney, a veteran submarine officer, said, “Our mission is simple and that is to give the men and women of our submarine force every unfair advantage we can give you.”
“I need to thank all the veterans in the crowd who forged the way ahead, who built the baseline of successful undersea operations in the submarine force so that we could continue to build on that to maintain our undersea superiority for decades to come,” said Dollaga.
Speaking on behalf of the 5,200 Army and Air CT national guardsmen, Major General Francis J. Evon Jr., Adjutant General, Connecticut National Guard expressed his appreciation for the employers who support their service. “Our greatest asset is our people and one of the most important things we do is take care of them…We can’t do that without the support of those who employ our citizen soldiers and airmen,” said Major General Evon. “I want to thank those employers and encourage you to continue to hire veterans and provide guardsmen the flexibility to do their training and increase their readiness in defense of our national security.”
Captain William Smith, Chief, Mission Support, US Coast Guard Academy shared the long history of the Academy in this region, its strong ties to New London, and its preeminence in the Northeast as the highest ranked public college. “All officers come through our gates,” said Smith, who characterized the close community of 1100 cadets and 600 support staff as always welcoming of the community for parades and sporting events to the campus on the Thames River.
Chamber of Commerce of Eastern CT President Tony Sheridan noted the invaluable contribution members of military families make in the region. “Many family members are engaged on boards and agencies in the community, and these are all wonderfully bright, capable people so our quality of life is dramatically enhanced by their participation.”
At the event, the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern CT’s Military Affairs Council recognizes two businesses who go above and beyond with the Military Community Support Award. This year’s winners were Antonino Auto Group and Cardinal Honda. At the event the awards were presented by Angela Clay and Dara Wicken, both of Navy Federal Credit Union and co-chairs of the Military Affairs Council of the Chamber.
Chris Antonino accepted the award for Antonino Auto Group. Antnonio Auto Group stepped up when government employees were placed on furlough during the government shutdown in January, donating $30,000 to the Chief Petty Officers Association. Each of the nine Antonino dealerships held a drive for Save-a-Suit, resulting in a van full of over 100 suits to be given to veterans entering the civilian workforce.
Cardinal Honda, represented by Kevin Tobey at the event, employs many active military spouses and veterans. The Cardinal Foundation purchased parade rifles for parade groups, hosted military appreciation picnics and barbecues, and opened the dealership to military groups to hold car washes for fundraisers. Navy law enforcement officers partnered with Cardinal to raise money and awareness for Connecticut Special Olympics.
The morning’s program opened with U.S. Navy Silver Dolphins Color Guard and the singing of the National Anthem by the Fitch High School Chamber Choir. The Fitch choir also honored each branch with the Armed Forces Medley.