NORWALK, Conn. — It was not what 94-year-old John Boboc expected when he arrived at the AAA Northeast Senior Policy Summit at the Norwalk Inn & Conference Center on Wednesday morning.
Boboc regularly attends AAA defensive driver training courses to keep up with the latest technology and to qualify for a discount on his car insurance.
Knowing of his interests, Fran Mayko of AAA Northeast invited Boboc to the conference. And when U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, took to the podium to give the opening remarks, Boboc didn't realize that he would become the focus of Blumenthal's speech.
But Blumenthal, also the ranking Democrat member of the Committee of Veterans' Affairs, wrapped up his remarks with a presentation to Boboc honoring his military service.
Boboc spent his 22nd birthday participating in D-Day, landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy.
Boboc, who was sitting with family members at the back of the room, stood to greet Blumenthal when he brought over a certificate of recognition.
"Boy, I wasn't expecting this," Boboc said. "Wow! I don't know what to say."
"Say 'thank you,' Dad! You can say 'thank you'," a family member recommended.
"We thank you for your service," Blumenthal interjected.
"Everybody already said what I mean," Boboc said.
Mayko took the opportunity to point out that Boboc is a great example of a senior driver who takes steps to make sure he continues to be able to drive safely. But before the conference's panel discussions began, the crowd applauded John Boboc's brave service to his adopted country.
Denna Chenette, a AAA traffic safety educator who has had Boboc as a student, said both he and his daughter, Judy, impressed her with their interest in the class. She noticed Boboc's zeal and the notes he took in class.
It wasn't until she saw his hat, which referenced World War II and said "Proud to Have Served," that she found out about his experiences as a U.S. Army heavy machine gunner. She thanked him for his service and spoke with him about her grandfather, who served in the Navy in the Philippines, and her son, who was deployed to Afghanistan as an MP with the Connecticut National Guard 's 143rd.
When she asked Boboc where he had served, she said his answer was, "All over."
As Blumenthal noted in his remarks, Boboc served in Algiers and Italy before taking part in the Normandy invasion.
Chenette also learned that Boboc came to Bridgeport in the 1920s from Romania, accompanied by his mother. Boboc has also lived in Milford and Branford.
When Chenette told her son, William Niedzwiecki of Florida, about meeting the WWII veteran, he was so interested in talking to Boboc that the two veterans, whose eras of service are separated by 70 years and who live hundreds of miles apart, held a FaceTime conversation before the conference.
Just another example of how 94-year-old John Boboc is keeping up with technology.
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