This Veteran’s Day, those who served our country will be served a breakfast in their honor by the Londonderry High School’s Pay It Forward Club. The club will continue its annual tradition of having a pre-parade meal for local veterans on Saturday, Nov. 11 starting at 8 a.m.
High School Assistant Principal Katie Sullivan and Pay it Forward’s advisor has her team of 40 students ready to host veterans from across the area to dine at the high school cafeteria while members of the school’s band underscore the event with music. The food is prepared by the LHS dining services and is sponsored by the Londonderry town offices school district. “They kind of help pick up the budget for me,” said Sullivan.
The breakfast had a humble beginning with only 21 veterans attending its first year. Now, Sullivan and her crew are looking forward to almost a hundred joining them for a buffet which includes pancakes, eggs, and homefries.
But it’s not just the veterans that come. Families and community members also usually join the festivities, like Superintendent Scott Laliberte and others from the school board, as well as Town Manager Kevin Smith and some of the town councilors. Sullivan estimates nearly two hundred people will attend this year. “That’s our biggest year so far,” she said.
The community support doesn’t just stop with the meal. Groups from across town donate themed gift baskets that are presented to each veteran at the breakfast. Past themes have included sports, puzzles, movies, chocolate, etc. “It could be anything,” exclaimed Sullivan. For her, the best part of the baskets aren’t the items, but what goes into making them.
“What I do love about it is everyone write a personal thank you note,” she said. “I think that’s what the veterans appreciate the most.”
She and the Pay It Forward Club started doing the breakfast five years ago, partnering with the Londonderry American Legion Post #27. The club does monthly bingo games with them and the students also volunteer their time changing the flags at the graves of veterans in various cemeteries across town. The club is very involved with other local groups, like the Lions Club and recently volunteered at the Down Syndrome Buddy Walk and the Color Run at the North Elementary School.
Sullivan knew she wanted to work with Post #27 to put on the breakfast. Her father, Charlie Sullivan is a member of the legion and a retired Navy officer. He served in the Vietnam War as a member of the “blue water navy,” which was at sea and for the “brown water navy,” which served inland on the rivers. He helped to fix the swift boats that soldiers used on the rivers. He has been part of the breakfast since its conception.
“The kids do a fantastic job putting it together,” said Charlie Sullivan. He explained that after the breakfast, legion members who can usually go down to the parade and walk together. Post #27’s commander, Bob Stuart helps to coordinate the meal and the march. The American Legion is made up of three parts: the American Legion, the Ladies Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion. Post #27 has almost seven hundred members, according to its website.
Charlie Sullivan said he and his fellow veterans look forward to the breakfast. “Just the fact that that happens is really quite a wonderful thing.” Besides enjoying some food with friends, the veterans and guests are treated to the theme songs of their service. During each song, the members of that branch stand and are recognized by everyone there.
“You just see how proud they are,” said Aurie Sullivan, Charile’s wife. “It just takes your breath away.”
Anyone who wants to donate to one of the gift baskets can contact Katie Sullivan at email@example.com. If you know a veteran who has not been invited to the breakfast yet, you can email her their name and phone number and a Pay It Forward member will call to send them a personal invitation.
Sullivan really enjoys the time the students get with the veterans. She said, “the things these kids learn from talking or sitting next to a veteran is incredible. I love it, love it, love it!”