The Derry Rotary Clubs will once again give what they have to those who risked everything. The Derry Rotary Club and Derry Village Rotary Club will combine forces for the fifth annual Veterans Cookout, to be held this year on Thursday, May 30, at 5 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Derry, 40 East Derry Road. Every Derry area veteran, plus a guest, is invited to the free event.
Art McLean, chairman of the event, said the tribute to veterans has evolved over the years. “The first year, we took 15 World War II veterans to Washington to see the memorial,” he said. “We flew them there, had lunch, did a tour, rented a bus.” But that proved to be expensive, so for a second act, the clubs honored Korean Conflict veterans with a
dinner at the Boys and Girls Club.
In the third year they honored Vietnam veterans, an often overlooked segment, he said. Last year they opened the event to all Derry-area service veterans, with a spouse or other guest, and will continue to do so this year, he said. The afternoon into evening event will include a barbecue, music, drinks, guest speakers and a gift, he added.
There is no agenda, other than the above, except “just to thank them,” McLean said.
Derry Police Chief Ed Garone said it’s the first time some of the veterans, notably Vietnam and Korea veterans, have been thanked. Attendance has grown, member Eddie Leon said. They hosted 15 Greatest Generation vets, 60 from Korea, 80 from Vietnam, and last year, when they opened it up to all vets, more
This year’s guest speakers will be U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, and an Army Ranger who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the World War II veterans are passing on, there are still a few around, McLean said. “Last year we had three or four, from our original trip,” he said. They are being slowly replaced by the Korea and Vietnam veterans and those from the two Gulf Wars and Afghanistan, though the younger vets are slower to join organizations, Leon said.
The Rotarians want to get the word out to all veterans, men and women, wartime and peacetime, and to do so, they are not relying solely on the Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion posts. They are conducting an extensive media campaign with newspapers and Derry Community Television to see that every vet gets his or her due. “We are also using Facebook,” McLean said. It’s a lot of work, and some expense, but it’s worth it, Garone said. “I had a man come up to me last year and say, ‘I haven’t talked this much about Vietnam in 20 years,’” he said.
Though World War II’s service people are billed as “The Greatest Generation,” the attitude of the Vietnam and Korea veterans he’s met says something about their
character as well, Garone observed. “They felt hurt that they weren’t acknowledged more, but they’re happy that the veterans today are treated better,” he said.
The barbecue will include steak tips, chicken breasts and all the fixings, and is free to all Derry-area veterans and a guest. RSVP is requested by May 28 so the clubs can plan, and may be made to Eddie at 674- 8144 or by e-mailing derry- firstname.lastname@example.org.