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Tree-lighting ceremony in Manchester to honor veterans

MANCHESTER - A new tree-lighting tradition begins today in honor of the city's veterans - those who are now serving, those who have served and those who lost their lives defending our freedoms.

The traditional tree lighting at Stanton Plaza on Elm Street across from Veterans Park will be replaced by a new holiday event called the "Circle of Peace: A Tribute to Military Veterans," starting at 4:30 p.m.

Initiated by Intown Manchester and sponsored by the Manchester Veterans Council, the event will feature five Christmas trees in a circle, each representing a branch of the U.S. Armed Services, with a sixth tree in the middle of the circle in remembrance of servicemen and women who lost their lives in Afghanistan or Iraq.

"Stephanie Lewry, our executive director, has been wanting to do something for the veterans during the holiday, and reached out to Mike Lopez, who is involved with the Manchester Veterans Council," said Sara Beaudry, director of marketing and public relations for the downtown organization. "So the two of them came up with this very nice tribute."

The six trees will be lit after a brief ceremony and a dedication by Mayor Ted Gatsas. After Lewry welcomes the crowd, students from Liberty Harbor Academy on Elm Street will lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Randy Browning, commander of the Manchester Veteran's Council and a veteran of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, will offer brief remarks.

"I don't think we can ever reflect enough on what they give to our country, so it's a way to show them our appreciation, especially around the holidays," said Beaudry.

The six trees were purchased by Intown Manchester and the Veterans Council, Beaudry said, and will take their place in a fitting location next to the Gold Star Mothers statue recently installed in front of the Radisson Hotel.

The event organizers hope the Circle of Peace will now become the city's annual tree lighting ceremony. "We'd like it to become a new tradition," Beaudry said. "We encourage everyone to invite friends and family to honor those who have served and to take some time to appreciate the season of giving.

For more information, call Intown Manchester at 645-6285.



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