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11/29/2023 08:30 AM

Nina Marreiros: Giving Back to Those Who Served

Nina Marreiros has always felt it important to give back to the community, including East Haven’s veterans. Photo by Aaron Rubin/The Courier.

This past month, people in East Haven and across the country once again celebrated Veterans Day, and it was another for Americans to honor those who have served in the armed forces with parades. But for some, including East Haven High School (EHHS) senior Nina Marreiros, that is not enough when it comes to honoring those who have served.

Since elementary school, Nina has kept the well-being and dignity of veterans in her heart and mind by raising money every year to purchase gift cards to places like Dunkin’. She remembers the first time she raised money for them when she was younger and the joy it brought to the veterans, which motivated her to keep it up.

“No one really does anything for them past the parade. They’re just honored there, so I wanted to give back,” Nina says. “They did so much for us, and we don’t really give back. That’s what I wanted to do.”

Over time, greater amounts of donations saw greater recognition by others for Nina’s consistent work, culminating in a Merit Award for Community Service she received from the town in 2021.

“When I got the call, it was really surprising. I was really happy,” says Nina.

Two years later, she experienced her final Veteran’s Day parade in East Haven prior to her graduation from EHHS, but it was another time for her “to see their smiles” as they were being honored. On that day, Nina was greeted by several veterans who know her and expressed how much they appreciate what she has done for them for years and look forward to seeing her each year.

“It’s a feeling you can’t explain. I feel appreciated, appreciating them,” she says.

They told Nina they will miss her when she leaves town for college, for which they wished her well. The veterans presented her with flowers and a shirt from the American Legion Post 89 chapter in town with her name on it and made her an honorary member of the group.

While the veterans thanked her for her efforts to raise money for them, Nina reminded them, “No, thank you. This is about all of you.”

Nina has a relative of her own who served in the military, specifically her maternal grandfather Gerald Cretella, an Army veteran who was based in Georgia during the Korean War.

In recent years, Nina has helped raise money for veterans by posting donation notices on Facebook, which then spread amongst people by word-of-mouth. A typical post on the social platform will read, “I’m donating gift cards to the veterans on Veterans Day, and would love it if you could give some money so we can go out and give it to them.”

Nina says she has always had “the need to give back,” and it is something that everybody should practice. Even the smallest gesture can go a long way.

“I love making people laugh, making people smile. This is just a part of me,” she says.

At EHHS, Nina is a member of the National Honor Society and is looking forward to her next steps after graduation next spring.

“I want to do biology at Quinnipiac [University],” says Nina, who wants to remain local and stay home during her college years. “I really like science. I’m taking three science classes this year, and they’re my best classes. I’m taking AP biology, environmental [sciences], and then I’m taking anatomy and physiology.”

She plans on continuing volunteering and community service work that does “anything that could make people happy,” she says.

Nina reminds all of us that veterans deserve more than just an annual parade in honor of their services.

“Even though I’m Person of the Week, it’s kind of like they are. They only get one day, but they should get more.”