ROCKY HILL, Conn. –
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, adjutant general for the Connecticut National Guard, presented the first-ever Connecticut Military Funeral Honors Ribbon to U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Salvatore Orlando during a ceremony at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Rocky Hill, Connecticut May 6, 2023.
At 96 years old, Orlando is the longest and oldest serving veteran service organization volunteer performing military funeral honors in Connecticut, having conducted more than 2,200 funerals since the state started keeping track.
“We’re honored that we’re able to present Sal with the first ribbon; we couldn’t think of anyone better,” said Evon, adding that many citizens of the state don’t realize how many funerals the Connecticut National Guard, the state militia, and veteran service organizations perform – about 3,500 a year.
The Military Funeral Honors Ribbon was created by an act of Connecticut general assembly to recognize service members who participate in the military funeral honors program ensuring Connecticut service members receive the honor and respect they deserve for their service to our country.
Orlando was orphaned when he was 14 months old and spent the better part of his childhood at the children’s home until he was adopted by his older sister when he was 14 years old. He was drafted into the Army in 1950, which he says, “gave him a home”.
Before retiring from the military in 1987, Orlando rose through the ranks from a private to a sergeant major, but his service to his community didn’t end when he hung up his uniform. In addition to being a continuous member of the Funeral Honor Guard, he has also actively served as a member of the Shriners, Boy Scouts, Governor’s Foot Guard, the Masons, and many more.
“His life of service and his sense of community are equally exemplified in his volunteer work that he touched the lives of so many citizens, so many organizations, and worthy causes,” said Lisa Marotta, the mayor of Rocky Hill, while reading a proclamation of celebration for Orlando’s service. “It is because of his bravery and sacrifice that we are able to wake each day to a life of freedom and we are able to go to sleep every night knowing our liberties are protected.”