Local veterans said the Londonderry High School Pay it Forward Club’s fifth annual veterans’ breakfast was one of their best events yet.
“This is exceptional,” said Pat Patterson, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1949 until 1976, and was one of three veterans to attend the high school volunteer group’s very first veteran’s breakfast five years ago. “To see what it has grown into – when this first started, we shared coffee and croissants.”
With nearly 100 veterans in attendance and more than 30 student volunteers assisting, this year’s event featured a full-course breakfast, a performance by the high school band and 90 hand-made gift baskets donated by teachers, students and families in the community.
Deanna Mele, an Air Force veteran who served from 1956 to 1959, said it’s nice to see the students giving back to veterans and taking time to recognize the meaning of Veterans Day.
“It’s phenomenal the school does this,” said State Rep. Doug Thomas, R-Londonderry, also a veteran. “We’re only one generation away from losing our freedom. The important thing is to preserve the meaning of why we are who we are.”
Student speaker Hailey Gilbert echoed the theme in her address to the seniors during the breakfast.
“While all you veterans all may come from different pasts and branches of service, you all share the fundamental qualities necessary to serve this country – bravery, patriotism, selflessness and integrity. These characteristics and dedication to your country are the reason I have the ability to voice my opinion, continue my education and live freely,” she said.
In addition to serving as an opportunity to show gratitude to veterans for their service, the breakfast also stimulated discussion on a variety of pressing veterans’ issues, particularly the need for reform of the Veterans Affairs system for care.
“The number of veterans receiving proper medical care is so low,” Patterson said. “There are hundreds of thousands not receiving treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. And the number of homeless veterans who need clothing, food and lodging is astronomical. If a veteran doesn’t have a family member to take care of them, there’s really nowhere else for them to go.”
Because many veterans won’t ask for help when it’s needed, many guests at the breakfast said Veterans Day is a good time to reflect on the importance of reaching out to veterans in the community who are in need, and offering support.