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November 11. 2012 9:51PM

Veterans Count Spectacular a patriotic hit in Nashua

NASHUA - Veterans from all over New Hampshire gathered on Sunday to be recognized for their sacrifices and honored for their bravery, while also supporting those who are just now coming home from service.

New Hampshire's first Veterans Count Spectacular was a patriotic gathering filled with songs and entertainment dedicated to the men and women who have helped make America a free nation. In a sold out arena at Nashua High School North on Veterans Day, a crowd of about 800 people weren't afraid to belt out a tune with Las Vegas entertainer Tony Pace when he took the stage singing, "We're Coming to America."

Pace was the headliner act on Sunday, evoking laughter and tears all for a good cause - to raise money for Veterans Count Club, a New Hampshire organization that assists service members returning from combat. More than $300,000 was raised from Sunday's event, which was spearheaded by local businessmen Sy Mahfuz and Tom Tessier.

"What a great city we have," said Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau. "Nights like this make us so proud." Lozeau presented a certificate of recognition to Veterans Count Spectacular, which has distributed $1.2 million to help hundreds of New Hampshire military families since its inception in 2007.

Mahfuz and Tessier presented the founder of Veterans Count, Michael Salter, with a special Founders Award, congratulating him for creating an organization designed to help soldiers returning from war adapt to the real world, find employment and resume normal family duties.

"There are a lot of founders here," Salter said after receiving the honor.

A Veterans Count care coordinator, Peter Collins, was also honored Sunday with the first annual Care Coordinator Award given to individuals who go above and beyond their daily responsibilities.

But Sunday's event was also about honoring the veterans who have done so much with very little recognition. Several World War II veterans attended the event, and were each asked to stand and be applauded. "This is the greatest generation of veterans that saved the world," said host Mike Koutrobis.

Prior to Pace's energetic performance, other entertainers took the stage, including Tom Dickson, Chad LaMarsh, Rockspring, special guest Alli Beaudry and the Rivier University Dance Team.

Pace wowed the audience with his lively charm, talented voice and quick comedic wit. "We are honoring all of the (service) men and women and their families. They are the heroes - the ones that never came home," said Pace, adding he was humbled to be asked to participate in the special Veterans Day event. Dozens of local businesses and civics groups stepped up to help fund the Veterans Count Spectacular, allowing all of the money raised from ticket sales to go directly to Veterans Count Club, a program of Easter Seals New Hampshire.

khoughton@newstote.com


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