Youth Ministry Honors Veterans at Labor Day Picnic

TRUMBULL—To honor and thank veterans and those who minister to them, the newly-formed youth group from St. Theresa Church in Trumbull joined with parishioner Dave Cox on Sunday to serve a Labor Day barbeque to residents and guests at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in West Haven. Cox, whose father was a World War II veteran and benefitted from services provided at this VA facility, said he wanted to show his gratitude by sponsoring a picnic and assuring that those they served walked away feeling remembered.

“We put on an event that would resonate with both staff and patients long afterward,” said Cox who planned a similar outing at the VA around Memorial Day. “It was the best attendance ever today, and I know the kids are responsible for the increased participation.”

A dozen teens from STAY, St. Theresa Apostolic Youth, served over 200 hamburgers and hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob and potato salad to veterans and staff gathered in the hospital’s courtyard as well as those confined to their residences. Though they enjoyed the picnic and opportunity to socialize, both the veterans and the teens appreciated the opportunity to make connections across generations and hear stories of another time.

STAY member Shane Miller talked with a World War II fighter pilot who taught young recruits how to fly. “I love airplanes, so it was cool to talk with him about what he did years ago. He had such great stories,” said Miller. “It’s nice to be interacting with everyone here and listen to their experiences.”

Juliana Moskowitz, another STAY teen, commented on how interesting it was for her to learn about veterans’ experiences in the military. “One man got very emotional and we were able to cheer him up,” she said. “It feels so good to help those who served our country.”

Serving others is one of the key pillars of STAY, said Karen Lannigan, director of youth ministry at St. Theresa. Giving teens a chance to talk with and pay back to those who made sacrifices left a great impression on them. “There is no better way to offer teens a conduit to get outside their world than serving others,” said Lannigan, “and to know that they in fact can make a difference.”

According to many of those present, the teens did make a difference with their energy and genuine interest. Michael Coplan, a former army lieutenant who served in the late 1960s, attended the event with his wife Renee. “These are fine young people here who seem to appreciate those who are at the VA hospital,” he said. “They are so generous with their time and we appreciate their love and attention.”

Because of the dedication of Dave Cox and his volunteers, the commitment of the young people from STAY and the sacrifices of military veterans, those celebrating this Labor Day witnessed the importance of service in all facets across generations.