Mohegan Tribe Honors Veterans in May 2011
The Mohegan Tribe, its reservation, and the community of Montville united to recognize the contribution of America’s veterans during the weekend of May 20-22, heading into the official Memorial Day holiday of May 30.
On Friday, May 20, members of the Legion of Valor attended a special reception at Mohegan Sun. The Legion of Valor is an organization of individuals who have earned the highest honors of the United States Armed Forces – either the Medal of Honor or the Distinguished Service Cross.
The group was based in Mystic for their 121st reunion from May 18 to May 22, taking advantage of all the attractions of the southeastern Connecticut area. Linda Schwartz, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs, reached out to the Mohegan Tribe with the Legion’s request to spend time at Mohegan Sun, pointing out that it was the Legion’s top choice for casino entertainment in the region.
Approximately 25 Legion members and their guests were welcomed with a catered reception at Wombi Rock in the early evening before heading out to enjoy all that Mohegan Sun has to offer. Officials of the Mohegan Tribe were on hand to greet them, including Chief Lynn Malerba, Tribal Council Chairman Bruce S. Bozsum “Two Dogs,” Tribal Councilor Cheryl Todd, and Council of Elders Chairman Robert S. Soper, Sr..
Pat Mugford, Bill Donehey, Jim Gilman and Ken Ihloff of the Honor Guard of the Mohegan Veterans Committee, along with Mohegan tribal musicians Jay Ihloff, Brian Quidgeon and Justin Scott honored the Legion of Valor members with a presentation of flags and a tribal welcoming song.
Chairman Bozsum hosted the event, bringing forward Chief Malerba, who delivered a tribute speech to the Legion members, remarking that “You are an elite group. Only ½ of 1% of all individuals serving in the military achieve what you have achieved.”
Both Chairman Bozsum and Chief Malerba told the guests that members of the Mohegan Tribe have served their country in every conflict since the Revolutionary War, while Chief Malerba shared the historic detail that the son of Rev. Samuel Ashbow was the first Mohegan to give his life for the United States during the battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.
Ms. Schwartz presented the gift of a plaque containing a 200 million year old Connecticut rock that was found when the new Veterans Administration building was under construction in Rocky Hill. The Mohegan Tribe presented each veteran who attended with a commemorative pin featuring the intertwined flags of the United States and the Mohegan Nation.
Town of Montville Memorial Day Events
On Sunday, May 22, Chief Malerba delivered an address in tribute to veterans at a memorial service held at Montville Town Hall preceding the Town of Montville Memorial Day Parade.
The parade began shortly after 1:00pm. Representatives of the Mohegan Tribe were Pat Mugford, Bill Donehey, Jim Gilman and Ken Ihloff of the Mohegan Veterans Committee; Robert Soper, Sr. Stephanie Fielding, Marie Pineault, and Bill Gucfa of the Council of Elders, and tribal member Pamela Massey and her daughter. They rode the Mohegan Tribe’s parade float, and greeted parade-goers as they travelled south down Route 32.
Other members of the Mohegan Tribe took part of the parade in non-Tribal roles: Steve Jones served as Drum Major for the Montville High School band, and Fred “Brad” Massey carried the flag, leading Pack 21 of the Cub Scouts. Additional participants in the Memorial Day parade included musicians from Montville schools, the Montville Town Council, and members of congress from the district including Sen. Edith Prague, Rep. Kevin Ryan and Rep. Betsy Ritter.
The float was specially constructed by 12 volunteers from Mohegan Sun’s Engineering department, including veterans’ committee member Gilman, along with Wayne Bartolo, Frank Debernardo, Nick Hanrahan, Leroy Lamphere, Mike Lyman, Art McDonald, Brian Quidgeon, Ken Shew, Tom Shew, Tom Teranova, and Charles Trolan. Tribal member Dominic Cristello volunteered his time to drive the float.
Prior to the start of the parade, Chief Malerba introduced a special visitor to the tribal members gathering at the float: Mohegan Sun employee Pan Tachem, a Gold Star mother from Waterford and employee of Mohegan Sun. Her son, Corporal Kemephoon “Ahn” Changawongse of the U.S.M.C. was killed in the conflict in Iraq in 2003 and received tribute at the day’s ceremonies.