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Two POW/MIA bracelets haven't left Madison resident Ted Aub's wrist since 1966, and two more on his other wrist have been there since the 1970s.
Although the New Haven native's number came up in the national draft in 1966, a draft overage canceled his call to serve. But as the son of a WWII veteran who worked as a German translator among POWs, forgotten and imprisoned soldiers have held a prominent place in Ted's life. Three years ago, it became his official role, when Ted was named Connecticut state coordinator of the National League of POW/MIA Families.
To this day, 1,655 Vietnam veterans are still unaccounted for, with 26 MIA from Connecticut, Ted notes. On Saturday, March 9, Ted and the Connecticut Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day (CT-WHVVD) committee invite the public to a special dinner at WoodWinds in Branford. Proceeds will help underwrite the third annual Connecticut Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, a free event for all veterans and their families at the Guilford Fairgrounds in April.
The annual celebration spun off from a 2010 proclamation by then-governor M. Jodi Rell making March 30 Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day. Congress passed a national act recognizing the day in 2007.
"Vietnam veterans were finally acknowledged after 45 years," says Ted, adding of the 1960s, "It was a different era back then, with some pretty big anti-war movements. I had friends who came home and were told not to wear their uniform on the streets. Imagine having people take their anger out on the people who put on a uniform and have dutifully served this country."
The annual CT-WHVVD celebration has received great response from veterans who've attended past events in Cheshire and Shelton. Ted, who lives in Madison, feels Guilford Fairgrounds is another perfect venue.
"Living out here, I knew about the fairgrounds, and in the state, the Guilford Fairgrounds is a well-known thing. It's a great location because the event has food booths, craft booths, speakers, a live band, and a classic car show."
The event is free to all veterans and their families, he adds. To this day, Ted says, Vietnam veterans are still working through their "lousy welcome home" after the conflict ended.
With CT-WHVVD, "We're welcoming and honoring those who've served primarily in Vietnam, but also anyone who's served."
Ted found out about CT-WHVVD due to his passion for classic cars. Ted has owned AA Auto Parts in Branford since 1973 and is a classic car buff. He inquired about a car show planned for the first CT-WHVVD event in Cheshire.
"I called about the car show and they said, 'Why don't you come down to a meeting?'" says Ted.
The committee couldn't have a found a more enthusiastic member. Among his many affiliations, Ted organizes Connecticut's POW/MIA Recognition Day, is on the State Veterans Task Force, is an associate member of the Housatonic Marine League, an adjutant of the Marine Corps League Department of Connecticut, assists Vet Hunters Project (helping homeless veterans), and volunteers with Connecticut VA hospitals, including amputee support services. He's also involved with the Connecticut Iwo Jima Memorial and Branford's Take a Vet Fishing Program.
"It's all intertwined, all interconnected, as far as I'm concerned," says Ted, who is also a husband, father, and grandfather.
Ted has big plans for the March 9 dinner. In addition to an exquisite meal, the night features speakers, guest/celebrity appearances, and entertainment, including WHVVD-CT Chairman MSG Steve Kreider, Soldier Hard (a music group), Vet Hunters, Miss Connecticut 2012 Emily Audibert, and Miss Connecticut 2006 Heidi Voight.
Ted will display artwork by VA art therapy participants and the sketches and drawings of Branford native Carl Holmstrom (1918-1979), done during his time as a World War II POW. Ted will read a proclamation from Jodi Rell acknowledging the celebration and plans to follow protocol to set up a Missing Man Honors Table.
"It's a tribute to those who never came home," says Ted of the empty table set for one, with a white cloth, inverted glass, lit candle, red rose in a vase tied with a yellow ribbon, a Bible, and other symbolic tributes.
Ted invites any community members who want to show their support and appreciation to veterans to attend the March 9 dinner.
"Who wouldn't want to support the people in our country that are part of our Armed Forces? They write a check for their lives to protect our way of life. We need to acknowledge the sacrifice they made."
The Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Benefit Dinner is Saturday, March 9 at WoodWinds, 29 School Ground Road, Branford, from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $55; proceeds support CT-WHVVD Celebration at Guilford Fairgrounds on April 21. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.ctwhvvd.com.