LONDONDERRY — Members of a group that has been swiftly expanding its presence in the Granite State in recent months paused to honor area veterans on Thursday, during a free cookout at the Londonderry Fish and Game Club.
Around 100 guests attended the ‘Thank A Vet BBQ’ hosted by Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), a national organization that opened a New Hampshire chapter at the start of this year.
Held in a shady clearing overlooking the club’s fishing pond, the event stemmed from a conversation between Fish and Game Club president Rick Olson and CVA state director Roger Wilkins just a few weeks earlier.
“We have about 1,300 members at this club, and I’d say a very good portion of those are military veterans,” said Olson, who is a veteran of the U.S. Embassy. “So when Roger suggested we host a barbecue here, I immediately said yes.”
Wilkins, who isn’t a veteran but was raised in a military family, said one of the group’s main goals is to address veteran concerns at both the state and national level.
As veterans from World War II through present day caught up over hot dogs and hamburgers, one topic that seemed to weigh heavy on many minds was the current state of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Gold Star Mother and Florida resident Karen Vaughn, who served as the event’s keynote speaker, noted that pending legislation such as Senate Bill 2013 is aimed at VA regulations and would specifically legislate a termination process for incompetent staff members.
“Without that authority, the VA cannot be reconciled,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn’s oldest child, Navy SEAL Aaron Carson Vaughn, was killed in action in the Tangi River Valley of Afghanistan in August 2011 when his chopper was shot out of the sky. Aaron Vaughn, one of 30 SEALS to perish that day, was 30 years old.
His mother described her son as a determined young man of great faith, one who overcame many obstacles, including several devastating knee injuries, to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a Navy SEAL.
“Aaron never wanted to be a hero,” Karen Vaughn said. “He just wanted to do his part. And after he died, I understood that I too needed to do my part.”
The Gold Star Mother became involved with CVA last fall and now devotes much of her time advocating for veterans’ issues.
“I was able to raise my son, just a farm boy from West Tennessee, to follow his dreams.” Vaughn said. “And I was able to do that because of all of you,” she told the veterans standing before her.