This past June, Christopher Coutu M’03, a Barney School alumnus, found himself at a Capitol press conference with Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, and other state officials to announce his plans to take 100 Connecticut WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the WWII Memorial on Sept. 15, 2007.
Coutu, 31, is an Air Force veteran who served in Kuwait and a member of the state’s Air National Guard. His grandfather and three uncles served in WWII. Coutu says he was inspired by his own patriotism and the stories he heard from veterans to take on the organization of the Connecticut Honor Flight. Of the approximately 72,000 veterans in Connecticut, Coutu says that more than 7,000 die each year. Many have lost their wives and their houses and are living in convalescent homes.
In 2005 Coutu established AmericanWarrior.com, a Norwich-based charitable organization that supports veterans and active military personnel and their families. In March 2007 he began raising funds for the first Honor Flight. In addition to finding supporters to cover the expenses of each veteran, he also recruited guardians who assisted the veterans with comfort and safety issues on the daylong trip.
The Honor Flight took off as planned on Sat., Sept. 15, 2007, on a warm and sunny morning that promised ideal conditions. Finally, more than 60 years after the war ended, WWII veterans would see the memorial erected in memory of those who fought and those who died in that war. Coutu has this to say about the success of his undertaking.
"It is the right thing to do. These heroes saved the world for us. The cost to cover the trip for one veteran, which is $250, is a small gesture for the sacrifices made by the 16.1 million Americans who served," says Coutu. "With the support of Connecticut residents, we will send more than a thousand WWII veterans to see their memorial before it's too late."
In the 50 years since, the University has grown into a global institution whose students and faculty are changing the world.