Christine Stuart photo
Veterans thank union members for the new TVs (Christine Stuart photo )

Members of one state union celebrated Veterans Day early Monday when it donated eight plasma televisions to the Connecticut Veterans Home in Rocky Hill.

“We really thank you for this,” Ray Covington, one of the residents at the home told a handful of members from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union. “We had a TV before but the channels wouldn’t go back.”

Catherine Cook, director of community affairs at the Veterans Home, said the TVs in the five recreation areas run 24/7 and many of them were burning out. “Here the TVs never really get turned off,” she said.

Considering the state’s current budget deficit, televisions would never make the cut, Cook said. “AFSCME has been a great partner with us and has done a lot over the years,” she said.

Tom Stough, head of AFSCME Local 991 in Manchester, who was on hand for Monday’s ceremony said giving these veterans televisions “means giving these people some respect.”

“Respect they deserve,” he added.

Mark Blumenthal, another AFSCME member, said “I can leave here, but these guys are stuck here.” He said when AFSCME member Ray Soucy, visited the facility a few years ago residents were huddled around a 14-inch television. He said that’s when Soucy proposed that the union adopt the Veterans Home.

So it did setting an example for its national brothers and sisters who have adopted local veterans homes in their own states.

AFSCME represents workers at veterans’ homes in 15 different states. And the International Union is encouraging the affiliates in these states to “adopt” those homes and engage their communities in fundraising drives.

The connection between the union and veterans isn’t too hard to understand since more than a third of its members have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, or have family members who have done so. Likewise, many of its members provide care at veterans’ homes and hospitals across the country.

On Monday AFSCME installed five 67-inch plasma televisions in the five recreation areas and three 47-inch plasma televisions at the hospital. The home also received a $500 gift certificate it can use to purchase DVDs.

AFSCME Council 4 and its supporters also raised more than $10,000 to purchase custom-made yard furniture from Kloter Farms in Ellington. This week it delivered the 40 rocking chairs, eight picnic tables and six benches to the Veterans Home.

Over the past five years the union has raised more than $250,000 for the Veterans Home, in addition to holding an annual Memorial Day picnic where union members and supporters spend time with the 500 residents of the home.