When the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation sought to find a Connecticut representative, Sal Sena Sr. was an obvious choice.
The Newington resident recently accepted the MCHF’s highest honor as one of 50 liaisons to its Governor’s Council, which represents Marines in all 50 states. As public relations officer for the Marine Corps League of CT and commander of the state’s Funeral Honors Detail, this is one of many designations Sena has taken on over the years.
“I’m already working with universities on patriotism and supplying the color guard for their functions, so I’m looking forward to talking with their veteran representatives and informing them of the benefits there are for students,” he explained. “We’re hoping to instill patriotism and camaraderie between students and the Marine Corps Foundation.”
Since the Governor’s Council formed in 2005, the MCHF has worked with governors from every state and territory to appoint knowledgeable representatives dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Marine Corps. The organization secured funding to build the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Heritage Center in Triangle, Virginia. Sena will be responsible for distributing pertinent information to local Marines and their families from the MCHF.
“As fewer Americans serve in uniform, the need to preserve and promulgate the history, traditions and culture of the Marine Corps remains critical,” representatives said in a press release. “The Museum will always serve as the nation’s greatest resource for accomplishing this mission for Marines and all Americans alike. The Foundation thanks every member of the Governors Council for volunteering their time and energy to furthering its mission.”
Sena, who was born in Sicily in 1948, moved to Hartford with his family in 1955. After graduating from E.C. Goodwin Technical School in New Britain, he enlisted in the Marines in 1964, spending time in Paris Island and Morocco. He was discharged in 1969 and went on to work at Angelo Tomasso Construction. Sena retired as an engineer inspector with the state Department of Transportation in 2000.
Since then he’s taken on volunteer duties with the Marine Corps League of CT full-time. He assigns military honors for veterans’ services across the state and works with families on their final preparations. When funding for these honors ran out this past June, Sena harnessed veterans organizations together to ensure the tributes continued.
“I just brought them all together to one table,” he said, passing on the credit to other veterans. “By doing so we were able to come up with a game plan to make sure all our veterans receive a proper military funeral. It worked tremendously. They were back in on the 5th of November, right in time for Veterans Day.”
Now the state has a $450,000 yearly budget to provide these services to families of the estimated 3,300 Connecticut veterans who pass away each year.
“It’s not just for Marines,” Sena pointed out. “It’s important we honor all our veterans throughout the state and the country, to show our gratitude for the service they gave to our country. It’s the goal of all veterans’ service organizations that no veteran goes down without the proper honors.”
He would know - he wrote the manual.
That would be the Ceremonial Funeral Manual, which Sena compiled to guide various detachments through a funeral procession.
It contains the history of taps, proper handling of the bugle, how to properly fold the American flag and a breakdown of the honors.
He also initiated the design of a Marine Corps coin to be given to families of the deceased. An inscription on it reads, “This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation as a token of our appreciation for the honorable and faithful service rendered by your loved one.”
Sena was the first person in Connecticut to be presented with the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Humanitarian Award at the Marine Corps League’s National Convention.
Over the past year he also received Central Connecticut State University’s Veterans Public Service Award and the State Department of Veterans Affair’s Service to Country and Community Award. He was inducted into the Veterans Hall of Fame in 2016.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, Schmitt@nbh or firstname.lastname@example.org.