City veterans saluted in Patriots Day celebration

Patriot Day awardees, back row from the left, John Phelan, David Carello, Robert Barnett, and Frank Nicastro Sr., pose with Miss Bristol Outstanding Teen 2019 Lindiana Frangu, front row left and Connecticut Princesses Charlotte Gomes and Lilie Woodward. The ceremony was organized by Miss Mum City’s Outstanding Teen Maggie Wernicki, who was unable to attend.

TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The City of Bristol hosted the second annual Patriots Day celebration on Monday, April 15, at the Bristol Public Library where John Phelan, David Carello, Robert Barnett, and Frank Nicastro Sr., were recognized for their service.

State representatives Whit Betts and Cara Pavalock-D’Amato presented each honoree with a proclamation. The citation, read by Betts, said, “Together we honor the veterans who selflessly and proudly serve their country and showed extraordinary bravery and patriotism while defending the United States of America.” Each citation was signed by the president of the Senate, Senator Martin Looney; Speaker of the House, state Rep. Joe Aresimowicz; and Secretary of State Denise Merrill.

The event was organized by Miss Mum City’s Outstanding Teen 2019, Maggie Wernicki, who was unable to attend the event. Her mother, Amy Wernicki, Miss Mum City 1994, oversaw the celebration.

“I am just as excited to represent the City of Bristol, and just as honored to share my daughter’s personal platform and her passion for ‘Voices of Honor: Salute and Support our Troops and Veterans,’” said Amy Wernicki.

Each honoree was presented with a gift made by Maggie Wernicki. Amy Wernicki explained her daughter received pieces of a retired American flag from New York-based Iwo Jima veterans that she works with every year.

Accompanying each flag was a statement that read, “I am part of an American flag that has flown over the USA. I can no longer fly, the sun and wind caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten, these are stars for our troops.”

Connecticut Princess Lilie Woodward explained that Patriots Day became an official unpaid holiday in Connecticut on July 10, 2017. Connecticut is now one of four states to observe the holiday in such a fashion, joining Maine, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.

Wernicki explained that during the nomination process, the public was asked to “consider nominating a local veteran, service man or woman, either living or deceased,” and to share “how this person has been heroic in serving our country, as well as patriotic to their community.”

Carello is a retired first sergeant U.S. Army veteran from the War on Terrorism Afghanistan Campaign. His father was a U.S. Army Korean War veteran, and his son is a U.S. Army veteran from the Global War on Terrorism Iraq Campaign.

“Just so you know, there was never a doubt in my mind, I always knew where my duty lay,” said Carello. “There’s nothing to me more important than that flag, my community, my state, and my country. I love the nation.”

Phalen was born and raised in Bristol, graduating from Bristol Eastern High School in 1999. He has served over 15 years as a member of the U.S. Army. He has been deployed to Afghanistan four times, in 2006, 2012, 2013, and 2017. He is currently serving with the B Company 5th Battalion 19th Special Forces Group Airborne.

“First, I just want to say thanks to Dave [Carello] and Mr. [Tim] Gamache. Some of you don’t know but these were mentors of mine before I joined and were very influential in getting me to join,” said Phalen. “I know it’s easy to want to thank a veteran, but, a lot of the reason why we do what we do is because of the people like you so thank you.”

Barnett served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1958. He is also a retired sergeant E8, and served in the National Guard for 33 years, from 1958 to 1991.

Nicastro served six years in the U.S. Navy, three of which were spent aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer. He served 24 years in the Connecticut Army National Guard where he played lead trumpet with the 102nd Army band and conducted the Connecticut Yankee Jazz Ensemble. He served as Bristol’s city truancy officer for 17, spent many years on the city council, held the office of Bristol mayor for 10 years, and served as a state representative for 10 years. Throughout his life, he has played taps at over 5,000 military funerals, including his father’s, which he described as being the most difficult to perform.

“I gave these [citations] out for 10 years and I never thought that I’d be receiving one, the thought never crossed my mind,” said Nicastro. “I want to thank everybody at the House and anywhere that had something to do with this, it makes me feel so great, and it makes me feel that what I did was so right. I’m at a loss for words.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.