Katie Goy, a West Running Brook eighth-grader, admits she gets emotional at the school’s annual Veterans Breakfast. Goy is a member of Kids Care Club, the group organizing the event, and said, “When they cry, I feel thankful that they were there to serve our country and protect us.”
The West Running Brook Middle School served its annual free breakfast to veterans and their families this past Thursday. The school gym was filled to capacity as those who served and are still serving accepted the thanks of students and faculty. And if a few eyes got damp, nobody minded.
The school provided a breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausages, pancakes and more, and the veterans relaxed at long tables, each decorated with a small silk flag. They chuckled over handmade cards and shared their stories.
The centerpiece of the program was a video salute to service people created by Social Studies teacher Audrey Allen. Images of veterans then and now flashed on the screen accompanied by renditions of each of the “service hymns.” The film closed with Martina McBride’s powerful rendition of “God Bless America” and an image of the West Running Brook mascot bear holding an American flag.
Another American flag took up most of one wall.
WRB Principal Leslie Saucier thanked the group for coming. She thanked the Kids Care Club, her school’s kitchen staff, and the PTSA students, families and faculty who came in the night before to set up.
Members of the Derry School Board and SAU staff attended, along with several Town Councilors. But the real stars were the veterans themselves, and the active duty members who found time to come.
For Army specialist Tonya Remick, the breakfast was also a welcome to town: she’s lived in Derry two weeks. But she’s been in the Army for 16 years, she said.
She originally joined because she wanted to see the world and “experience new things,” Remick said. But that turned into a passion for serving her country, she added.
She enjoyed the breakfast, she said. “It’s really nice.” It was also fun to experience the event with her daughter Katelyn, 13, a student at the school.
Glenn Paradis, a Vietnam veteran, sat with a group of friends. “It’s my third time at the breakfast and I love it,” he said.
Paradis was on an aircraft carrier and didn’t engage in ground combat, he said. But it was still Vietnam. He was surprised not to face angry protesters at home, he said. “I heard the horror stories, but didn’t see any of that,” he said. “New Hampshire was a little better in that regard. I’m glad I didn’t come from California.”
Paradis said he “loves what the kids do here,” and he opened his program of local veterans events to show a crayoned appreciation card. “This is cute, I’m taking it home,” he said with a smile.
George Hockaday served in the Army from 1962 to 1964, and like Paradis, it was his third time at the event. “It’s a really nice program,” he said.
Ralph Cassell was one of the older veterans, serving in the Air Force from 1946 to 1949, “at the tail end of the war.” “I’ve been here every time I could,’ he said of the breakfast. “They do a great job.”
Though there have been national scandals in the area of veterans’ care, Cassell said he has no complaints about how he’s been treated. “I go to the VA in Manchester and they treat me well,” he said.
As she helped the other Kids Care members clean up, Goy said she’s been working on the breakfast all three of her years at the middle school. “But the school has been doing it longer,” she said.
Her fellow eighth-grader Danielle Craft said, “I love serving them. It’s really fun.”