As the town moves forward with plans to install a new monument on the town Green, there’s one voice supporting the project who has been helping veterans here for decades.
Dan Riccio Jr. served in the Army during the Vietnam era, and has since devoted his free time to helping other veterans and promoting their causes. His efforts led to a day dedicated in his honor two years ago when he was named Citizen of the Year, and more recently, his induction into the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame.
Riccio said he was happy to learn he was selected for the honor because few are selected compared to the number who apply to the Hall of Fame. “It’s very hard to get into,” he said, “and it’s one of the highest honors you can receive.”
Riccio was a member of the 10th class of honorees. Past honorees have included former President George H.W. Bush, a member of the inaugural class of 2005, the year former Gov. M. Jodi Rell created the Hall of Fame. The names of all those chosen for the honor are listed on an easel in the atrium of the state Capitol building in Hartford.
The Hall of Fame “was established to increase the awareness of the lifetime contributions of veterans after completion of honorable military service,” according to its website. “Those selected for the honor of induction are veterans who honorably served their country through military service and who continue to serve and inspire their fellow man with their deeds and accomplishments throughout their lifetime.”
Riccio served in the Army from 1968 to 1971, and after his service ended, he joined the American Legion Post 76. He worked his way up its ranks and has served as its commander for the past 13 years — a term unheard of as most commanders spend only a year or two in the post before retiring.
“We never had one for more than three years, and now I’m here for 13 years, he said. “It’s hard to get good people to step up and do it because it’s a lot of work.”
“He has made it his personal mission to help veterans obtain wheelchairs, canes and everyday necessities,” according to the Veteran’s Hall of Fame description of Riccio in its 2015 induction program. “He has become an inspiration to the young people in North Haven; supporting the high school sports teams, volunteering with the local Boy and Girl Scouts and managing three American Legion baseball teams.”
Riccio recounts his wartime experiences to students through its “Eyewitness to History” program and has lent his support to the town’s food bank, the Special Olympics and the Leukemia Association.
Last fall, he retired after a dozen years of service as the town’s Welfare Administrator, but he remains active in town affairs, serving on the committee charged with coming up with the plans to put a new monument on the North Haven Green that will honor veterans of the post-Vietnam era, including those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two decades.
“I don’t do it for the accolades,” Riccio said. “I do it to help others. We see what we can do for veterans so they can continue to have a normal life.”