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Through the 11 of Us project, WNPR and CPBN's Institute for Advanced Media are sharing eleven personal stories from veterans and those in their community.In the series, veterans talk about their service and what it means to be a veteran.CPBN is hosting a clothing drive for veterans and their families in Connecticut. Bring new clothing with tags still attached, or gift cards for the purchase of new clothing, to CPBN at 1049 Asylum Avenue in Hartford, attention Mike Komrosky. The drive ends November 17.11 of Us is made possible by Victory Energy Solutions and New England Conservation Services.

Connecticut's VA Commissioner Has a Personal Connection With Veterans

"Being around soldiers really helps me put into perspective the issues that are important to our veterans."<br><em>Sean Connolly</em>

In the days leading up to Veterans Day, WNPR brings you stories from veterans and those in their community.

Sean Connolly has a personal connection with veterans beyond his role as the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs

Connolly is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. His military career started on active duty.

"My first assignment was at the 101st with the Screaming Eagles at Fort Campbell. I was there for a couple of years before we deployed, but we deployed in 2003 at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was there as a lawyer. I was there as a brigade legal adviser, a brigade trial counsel.

"At that time I didn't have children. It was my wife and I. We had been married probably about a year and a half or so. So she was at Fort Campbell with me. We were having what we look back as a great life, you know a young couple before Operation Iraqi Freedom, living on post with other young families.

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Credit VICTOR SUWATCHARAPINUN / CPBN
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CPBN
Sean Connolly

"That was the worry, you know about leaving Carol behind. It was always a struggle to get to be able to communicate with her while I was gone. There were times where it was weeks or longer that you didn’t have that communication. So you also went back to the old-fashioned way and wrote letters. Family members sacrifice a lot.

"Being around soldiers, in my case understanding the challenges that they face, really helps me put into perspective, when I come to the office at Rocky Hill, the issues that are important to our veterans; the issues that are important to our active service members; and our active reserve members as well.

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Credit VICTOR SUWATCHARAPINUN / CPBN
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CPBN
Commissioner Sean Connolly shows the many letters he and his wife sent to each other during his deployment to Iraq.

"It really is a true sacrifice. When you think about the number of American citizens around the nation, here in Connecticut, who have served, who are serving, it’s really a tiny portion. And nowadays, it’s those who raise their hand and volunteer. They’re volunteers -- to do that to give of themselves and they give so so much -- that to take that one day to not only to thank them for their service, but to think about their service and think about how we can continue to support them that day and every day beyond."

Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.

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