Veterans Honored at Annual Breakfast

The freezing cold that shut down the Veterans Day Parade could not dull the warmth and adoration felt inside the Londonderry High School cafeteria during this year’s Veterans Day Breakfast. Friends, families and community members joined 125 former service members in celebrating their sacrifices and remembering their comrades. Banners celebrating and offering gratitude to the vets hung around the room, emphasizing the theme of the morning. Students from both the high school and middle school gave speeches thanking the vets for their service and their inspiration.

Maeve Holland told the crowd,” you knew that your country needed you and you went without hesitation.” Holland is a member of the Pay It Forward Club at LHS. This is her fourth-year participating in the breakfast, which was the brain-child of Assistant Principal Katie Sullivan. Sullivan has her students personally call up the veterans to invite them to the breakfast and have a conversation. She believes it’s important for kids, like Holland, to interact with the vets. It promotes a connection they may not otherwise get.

“I’m so honored to be a part of this event every year,” said Holland, “because I get to meet the heroes of this country.

Cassidy Conti, a senior and member of the marching band, spoke of how she was inspired by her family members to join the Coast Guard. “My uncles served in the Coast Guard for over 20 years and my sister and her husband are both enlisted currently, so I had seen what great things the Coast Guard had done for them and their lives. That’s what inspired me to join.”

Before her speech, Conti and other members of the LHS Symphonic Band played the theme songs of each military branch under the direction of Andy Soucy, while the Honor Guard displayed the stars and stripes. Danika Dixon sang the lyrics to each song, allowing everyone who knew the words to join in. Each veteran was asked to stand while their song rang out though room. Cheers and applause almost drowned out the music as members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard were recognized.

One of the highlights of the breakfast, besides the free meal, was when the soon-to-be 100-year-old Army veteran of World War II, John Powers, was sung Happy Birthday by those gathered. He will turn 100 early next month.

Another highlight was the giveaway of gift baskets. The baskets are created and donated by members of the community, school groups, and even the Londonderry Fire Department. Each basket had a theme, from auto care to self-care. Sullivan said 131 baskets were donated this year. They lined the side wall of the cafeteria, laid down on chorus risers, filling each of the three rows. The vets were given tickets as they arrived, and the baskets were given away raffle style, with each get getting a randomly assigned basket.

Beverly Ford sat near the front of the room, waiting for her raffle number to be called. She had her nails done in red, white and blue with anchors on her ring fingers. Her hands had a Navy theme, but she served in the Air Force. She served for almost four years and was the first enlisted woman in the Air Force in the Philippine Islands. She said her name is on the Women’s memorial in Washington D.C.

“I’ve always been real proud of being in the Air Force,” Ford said. She worked as a stenographer under General Ackerman and General Westmorland. She was the only enlisted woman working as a stenographer- the rest were civilians. Her eldest brother also served in the Air Force. She said her favorite part of being in the service was “just learning a lot of the language and culture of the Philippine’s.”

After the giveaway, which gave Ford a basket full of items to care for her car, members of the American Legion Post 27 Commander Bob Stuart spoke about what it means to be a vet and how the community can help those who need it. He also went on to speak about the sacrifices made by the families of service members and how hard it is for the spouses and children of those who worry about whether their loved ones would return from deployment.

“We can do better. We must do better,” said Stuart. “Our duty to these heroes can never be repaid.”

While Stuart and the others spoke, 9-year old Grace Rich and her friends Samantha Sullivan and Emily Hoyt handed out small toy soldiers in plastic bags with a note. She did it last year with her friend Emily at the Nutfield Convenience Store, explain her mother, LHS English teacher Crystal Rich. The note said, “please take a soldier home and put it somewhere that will remind you to pray for our men and women who have served and continue to serve our country.”

The extreme cold temperatures cancelled the annual Veterans Day Parade that day.

See more photos of the breakfast in the Nov. 16 issue.

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