Derry middle school students show veterans that gratitude never gets old
DERRY -- Some local veterans said they were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support they received during a breakfast held in their honor at West Running Brook Middle School on Monday.
Veterans, family and friends, along with state and local dignitaries, filled the school's gymnasium for the sixth annual Veterans Breakfast and Salute.
"It chokes me up every time I come to this; I walk out with tears in my eyes," said Vietnam veteran Bruce Alger, who has been to every breakfast except for one. "It's just a really gripping experience, to see these kids do this for us. Don't tell me there isn't any hope for the youth of America. Here's your proof right here."
Veterans were honored throughout the approximately two-hour event that began at 8 a.m. with students serving breakfast.
At one point, students walked around the gymnasium to hand each veteran in attendance an American flag. The flags were folded by the seventh- and eighth-grade members of West Running Brook's Kids Care Club, said Audrey Allen, a teacher and adviser to the club.
Allen said the flags were a thank you from the school to veterans for their service to the country.
"We appreciate each and every one of you and thank you for your sacrifice, for your sense of duty, and for your service," Allen said.
As she spoke at the lectern, a huge American flag was draped behind her.
A number of other awards were given out, including the Spirit of America Award. The award is handed out each year to people in the community who have made a difference for veterans.
American Legion Post No. 9 received it this year for its assistance over the years to West Running Brook. Also receiving the award were Cmdr. David Kenney and Petty Officer 1st Class Dave Almond of the Navy Operational Support Center for teaching members of the Kids Care Club the proper way to fold an American flag.
Gov. Maggie Hassan didn't attend but sent a letter that was read aloud. The governor said she regretted not being able to attend and thanked veterans for their service throughout the state and nation.
She also praised West Running Brook students and staff for honoring veterans and service members in the community.
"In hosting this breakfast and recognizing these brave Americans, you draw deserved attention to the Granite Staters who have stood up and answered the call to defend our nation," the governor said.
After the breakfast and salute ended, some veterans gathered to shake hands with old friends and share memories.
Vietnam veteran Doug Crooker, who served three tours of duty, said he saw combat throughout his stint as a Marine. He still thinks about the fallen service members whose names are inscribed in granite on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
"I had a busy three-year tour over there," Crooker said. "There was always something going on. I got pretty active in everything that was going on over there. Today, I miss all of my brothers that are on the wall."