Tag Archives: Westport VFW Post 399

Henry Beck To Veterans: Courage, Commitment Are Inspiring Examples To Follow

Henry Beck was an inspired choice to speak at this week’s Veterans Day ceremony.

The Staples High School first honors senior — captain of the football and lacrosse teams, and an indoor track athlete as well — is both an FCIAC Exemplary Scholar-Athlete (3.82 GPA) and AP Scholar (Economics and Computer Science).

Henry also serves as a Staples Link Crew freshman mentor. He is a member of the Service League of Boys and the Staples Radio Club.

In the summer he works in maintenance and guest services for Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department. Throughout the year he is a volunteer youth football and lacrosse coach.

In his address at the VFW, Henry said:

I am honored to be here today. Words cannot describe how thankful I am for our American veterans.

When I was asked if I would attend this ceremony and say a few words, I decided that I should tell you a little bit about myself and why I feel so compelled to serve our country. I am privileged to stand here today to talk about service and what that means to me.

Henry Beck, at Wednesday’s Veterans Day ceremony.

For most of my life, I have gravitated towards team sports. My dream, as far back as I can remember, was to play football at Staples High School. I remember idolizing the players I grew up watching, and aspired to be like them.

Football is the ultimate team sport. All 11 players must do their jobs independently to achieve success as a team. As captain this past season, it was my job to lead and inspire my teammates to be disciplined, work hard, and execute.

Often this required trust and sacrifice for the greater good of the team. Doing this repeatedly, throughout the season, enabled us to come together as a brotherhood. There is a quote by G.K. Chesterton that I hold close to my heart every time I walk onto a field to compete: “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

As I entered my senior year at Staples and began the process of deciding where I wanted to attend college, I reflected a lot on who I was, and what was important to me. I kept coming back to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

My grandfather served in the Army during the Korean War 70 years ago, and while we never spoke about it when he was alive, I was always curious. This curiosity laid the foundation for my interest in West Point. I hope to have the chance to join the most important team on the planet, the U.S. Military, to play a part in its goal of protecting our great nation, its people, and their freedoms.

Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Whether it is at West Point or an ROTC program, I am compelled to give back and pay it forward. I want to give back for all the freedoms I enjoy today, and I want to pay it forward so the kid in elementary school, who has dreams, will have the same chances I did.

All this self-reflection had me thinking a lot about my freedom and those who served to ensure it. They say that giving one’s life in defense of country or freedom is the ultimate sacrifice. I completely agree.

But it hit me that such a sacrifice started with courage and commitment. Anyone who has served our country first had to have the courage to commit to that possibility. What an inspiring example to follow.

Because of the lessons I have learned from my family, coaches, and now you, courage and commitment will serve as a guiding principle in my life.

As a kid my plan was to follow the example set by the Staples football players. Now that I have done that, my dream is to follow the example you have set by serving our country.

Thank you for giving me the freedom to choose what I do with my life. Thank you for your commitment to our country and for being a role model for my generation. Thank you for your courage!

Roundup: Halloween, VFW, WCP, More


No one knows what Halloween will look like this year. Besides, we’re still a week away from Labor Day.

But — as regularly as Starbucks rolls out pumpkin spice latte — a Halloween store has popped up in Westport.

This was is in Compo Shopping Center. It replaces Olympia Sports.

Although I’m sure on November 1, it too will be gone.


Two Westport non-profits have received Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act tax credit grants.

The Joseph J. Clinton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 399 grant will pay for roof improvements and energy conservation. The Westport Country Playhouse grant will go toward driveway and parking lot paving, and HVAC hardware replacement. have received grants provided under the Connecticut’s Neighborhood Assistance Act tax credit program.

Both organizations received help from the town of Westport, in their applications to the state Department of Revenue Services.

VFW on Riverside Avenue


And finally … happy 75th birthday, Itzhak Perlman!

Pics Of The Day #1134

Betsy Kravitz celebrates Memorial Day, on South Compo Road…

(Photo/Jimmy Izzo)

(Photo/Alexis Donnerstag)

… and with hands over hearts, a socially distanced crowd heart Gettysburg College junior Sophia Bookas play “Taps” this afternoon, at Saugatuck Sweets…

(Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

… while not far away, Lt. Ryan B. Weddle of the US Naval Reserves and his sons John and Ben — Cub Scouts, and Greens Farms Elementary  School students — decorated veterans’ graves at Christ & Holy Trinity Cemetery.

They honored Joseph J. Clinton, who died in France during World War I, and for whom the local VFW Post 399 is named for, as well as John H. Darrow, 28th Connecticut Volunteers, who was killed in Baton Rouge during the Civil War. 

Lt. Weddle and his sons also placed US and Navy flags at Westport’s World War I and World War II memorials, at Veterans Green.

Unsung Hero #130

Joseph Pontoriero is a Staples High School freshman. Nearly every day, he passes VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399 on Riverside Avenue. His grandfather is a Vietnam War veteran who meets friends every Thursday for lunch and camaraderie.

For Veterans Day, Joseph wanted to see the events VFW had scheduled. He was amazed to find the organization had no website.

Many youngsters would say, “too bad.” Joseph said, “I’ll create one!”

Joseph Pontoriero

VFW officials were happy to have him — and his many years of programming experience. Joseph spent hours designing a custom site. Now he spends hours more maintaining it.

“He exceeds our expectations every time,” says Post 399 quartermaster Phil Delgado.

“Joe is not content to use a drag-and-drop template. He’s dedicated and determined. He writes and customizes everything manually, and helps drive visitors to our website.”

The site includes photos; news about coat and blood drives, support of a medical dog project, holiday parties and more; a calendar with upcoming events; the dining room menu; sign-ups for the e-newsletter — even a biography of the post’s namesake, Pvt. Joseph J. Clinton.

Joseph makes time for the VFW alongside many other activities. He’s been a junior board member of Westport Maker Faire (now Maker Faire Connecticut) for 4 years. As a Westport Library MakerSpace volunteer, he’s helped teach people of all ages how to 3D print. In his spare time, he enjoys playing golf — and the bagpipes.

Veterans of many conflicts are grateful for Joseph’s service to VFW Post 399. Now the rest of Westport can honor this Unsung Hero too. Just click here — vfw399ct.org — and enjoy!

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399, on Riverside Avenue.

National Honors For VFW Building

As a Staples High School junior, Dylan Mace went the extra mile. Or three.

Appalled that Westport’s VFW Post 399 lacked a handicap-accesssible bathroom, he singlehandedly raised almost $8,000. An architect, electrician, contractor and tile guy jumped in. Businesses offered discounts on supplies.

They were joined by Scott Rochlin, who set up a foundation to help veterans and their families after his son Charley — a decorated Marine — died in an automobile accident.

But Dylan wanted his project to be extra-special for veterans. He created special tiles, with the emblems of the 5 US military branches.

Dylan loved working — and hanging — with the VFW crew so much, that he vowed to do even more. The new bathroom looked great, he thought — so why not spruce up the rest of the building too?

He enlisted 12 fellow National Honor Society members to help paint. They other day they grabbed brushes and rollers, and got to work.

Staples High School National Honor Society members (from left) Sophie McCabe, Molly Fording, Kate Miller and Dylan Mace paint the VFW interior.

The Riverside Avenue building now looks great. Dylan wants to get the word out, to make sure everyone in Westport knows about it. You don’t have to be a veteran to go!

Community service is not all that Dylan does. He made 2nd team All-State and All-FCIAC for the Staples ice hockey team — and was the Wreckers’ MVP.

“06880” — and the VFW, and the rest of Westport — salute Dylan, and Staples’ National Honor Society.