2017 Honored Veterans

Jessica Aguirre

U.S. Marine Corps

Corporal Jessica Aguirre, a Stamford native, decided at the age of 17 to join the Marine Corps and officially ‘start life,’ as he likes to say. A few weeks after graduating from Westhill High School, Jessica shipped out to the Corps’ base in Paris Island, S.C.

Upon graduating from boot camp there, Jessica did her combat training at Camp Geiger, N.C. and trained at the Marine base in Meriden, Miss., to become an aviation maintenance administration specialist working with multimillion-dollar aircraft. Jessica was deployed and stationed for the first portion of her tour of duty in Okinawa, Japan, where she discovered a love for scuba diving and sushi. She was relocated to Pendleton, Calif., for the remainder of her enlistment.

In 2014, Jessica said goodbye to her beloved Marine Corps to pursue a career in early childhood education. She is attending Norwalk Community College and is on track to graduate in 2018. She then plans to transfer to UConn-Stamford to pursue her bachelor’s degree, also in early childhood education. Upon receiving her degree, Jessica, who has a passion for children and loves working with them, plans to become a preschool teacher.

Jessica is currently working as a nanny for a family with two young children ages 2 and 4. When not in school, studying or working, she enjoys running, cycling and playing tennis, and spoiling her pup Teddy.

Erica Class

U.S. Marine Corps

Erica Class, who was born and raised in Stamford, graduated from Westhill High School in 2007. That fall she enrolled at Norwalk Community College, while working part time. Over the next few years, Erica considered the military and the opportunities it offered, both for her career and education, and joined the Marines in 2010.

After completing boot camp at Paris Island, S.C., Erica remembers proudly becoming a Marine on September 11, 2010. She had completed the Crucible –one of the most challenging programs recruits face –and received her Eagle, Globe and Anchor, the official emblem and insignia of the Marine Corps. Following boot camp, Erica completed weapons training at Camp Geiger, N.C. and then went on to Military Occupational Specialty School in Fort Lee, Va., to train as a food service specialist. She deployed in February 2011 to Okinawa, Japan, where she was stationed at Camp Hansen. While serving there she received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, awarded to junior officers and enlisted personnel to recognize outstanding meritorious service or achievement.

On February 2013, Erica was transferred to Camp Pendleton, Calif., and received her honorable discharge in June 2014. Erica returned home to Connecticut, where she is completing her last semester at Norwalk Community College, graduating this spring with her associate’s degree in general studies. She plans to continue her education to receive her bachelor’s degree over the next few years.

Erica’s fiancé, Alex, is actively serving in the Connecticut Air National Guard stationed in Orange. Erica and Alex have a daughter, Selena, who is three years old.

Raymond Ketchum

U.S. Army

After a 30-year Army career that took him and his family to Europe and Asia, Ray Ketchum and his wife Gwen settled in Stamford in 1987, where Gwen was born and raised.

Ray attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Upon graduating in 1957, he began his military career at Ft. Monmouth, N.J., as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Signal Corps. Early assignments were with the 50th Airborne Battalion at Ft. Bragg, N.C., and as a radio frequency engineer in the Pentagon and in Heidelberg, Germany. In 1967, Ray deployed to Vietnam as an executive officer for the 44th Signal Battalion. Following the 1968 Tet offensive, he oversaw the building of the Pacification Support Management Center used to coordinate the reconstruction of South Vietnam. Ray returned to the United States in 1969 to command the 57th Signal Battalion at Ft. Hood Tex., and then was assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations at the Pentagon.

He went on to command the Defense Communications Agency Northwest Pacific Region, responsible for operations in Okinawa, mainland Japan and Korea. On his promotion to Colonel, Ray was reassigned to Ft. Monroe, Va., serving as Combat Developments Director for Telecommunications, Command & Control Systems. From there he served as Brigade Command at Ft. Gordon, Ga., and at Ft. Monmouth, N.J., where he retired as Deputy Commander. Among Ray’s commendations are the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Vietnam Service Medal with five campaign stars.

But Ray didn’t really retire! After settling in Stamford, he worked for an executive search firm placing military members in jobs, was board chair of for two Methodist churches and currently is the President of Learning in Retirement, Inc. Ray and Gwen have two children and five grandchildren.

Thomas Morelli

U.S. Air Force

Tom Morelli was born and raised in the Cove section of Stamford and graduated from Stamford High School in 1964, where he played varsity football. He joined the Air Force in 1966.

Stateside, Tom was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base and Amarillo AFB, both in Texas; MacDill AFB in Florida; and Seymour Johnson AFB in North Carolina. He was deployed overseas from 1967-1968, where he served in Thailand at two bases, one in Ubon, home of Wing 21 of the RTAF 2nd Air Division, and the other in Udorn, home of 2nd Air Division/23rd Wing Air Combat Command. At both bases, Tom was a crew chief on F-4C Phantom fighter bombers. He was responsible for keeping the aircraft in combat-ready status to support ground troops in Vietnam and to provide aerial support for B-52 bombers. Tom earned the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Connecticut Wartime Service Medal and Vietnam Service Medal. His squadron, the 555 Tactical Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the Triple Nickel, was awarded the Presidential Citation for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy for shooting down six North Vietnamese MiG 21 aircraft. Tom was honorably discharged in 1970 with the rank of Staff Sergeant.

On returning stateside, Tom earned his bachelor’s degree in labor relations from UConn and worked for 30 years at Pitney Bowes in its engineering department, retiring in 2006. Tom served for 15 years as a senior Babe Ruth baseball coach and volunteered over the years at the St. Leo Catholic Church’s Fair, where he met his wife, Diane. Through St. Leo’s, Tom and Diane have been a sponsor for a young boy in Brazil. Tom also is a member of the Knights of Columbus. Tom and Diane have four children and seven amazing grandchildren.

Tyrsa Pratcher

U.S. Marine Corps

Born in Stamford Hospital, Tyrsa Pratcher was already in uniform by the age of nine, marching in the Guardians Color Guard, an association of the Stamford Police Department and the Junior Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10446. Her stepfather, Police Lieutenant Merle Nicholson directed the color guard.

After graduating from Westhill High School, Tyrsa attended UConn-Stamford. She left in 1985 to join the Marine Corps, completing boot camp at Paris Island, S.C. She was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and at Camp Lejeune, N.C., serving initially as a personnel financial records clerk and completing her tour as an Office Manager for the Military Police, for which she received the Navy Achievement medal.

In 1989, a few days before the end of her enlistment, Tyrsa, who intended to re-enlist, canceled her plans when her stepfather unexpectedly died. She received an honorable discharge and worked in Stamford before enrolling in Hampton University in Virginia. After just one month there, she was recalled to active duty to participate in Operation Desert Shield/Storm at Camp Lejeune and in 1991 was discharged at the final rank of Sergeant.

On her return to Stamford, Tyrsa completed her bachelor’s degree in English at UConn. During her tour of duty, Tyrsa had begun writing poetry to help ease the stress of service. She self-published her book of inspirational poetry, Keeping the Store. Tyrsa has been featured for her poetry on News12CT, News Channel 8, the Advocate, several radio stations and at Barnes & Noble. Most recently, she held readings during Older Americans Month and the Veterans Award Dinner, both at the Stamford Senior Center. Tyrsa currently works for the City as an Office Support Specialist and continues to write and publish her poetry.

Robert Redniss

U.S. Army

Bob Redniss was born in Yonkers, N.Y., and lived in Ann Arbor, Mich., with his mother and brother, before they settled in Stamford in the 1930s. In January 1942, at the age of 19, Bob left his studies at UConn, enlisted in the U.S. Army, and served in the Army Air Force as a Master Sergeant and Navigator on B-17 missions in Europe. In addition to navigating on these flights, Bob, who was based in England, did aerial reconnaissance and photogrammetry –the use of reliable measurements from aerial photographs for mapmaking and surveying. During one flight, his plane was shot up, and he was sent to a London hospital and then to the United States for reconstructive surgery on his left hand. He later received the Purple Heart, among other commendations.

Prior to his honorable discharge, when home on leave in 1943, Bob married his high school sweetheart, Claire Walter. After his discharge, he worked for his brother, Alex, who was designing chemical plants around the world. During trips to France, Bob fell in love with wine, became an oenophile, then a sommelier and achieved the rank of chevalier in the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (Fraternity of Knights of the Wine-Tasting Cup).

In the early 1950s, Bob built starter homes in Stamford, including his own on Maitland Road in Glenbrook. In 1957, he bought the surveying and engineering firm of Harold A. Parsons Co. He and Claire ran the company together out of their house until 1965 when the firm became Parsons, Bromfield and Redniss and moved downtown. As the business grew, first Raymond and later Richard joined them. In addition to many civic activities including Exchange Club, Boy Scouts, and the United Way Bob was president of the Stamford Land Trust Conservation and ARI (Always Reaching for Independence), when he passed away in 1984.