Helping of gratitude fills day in HoldernessBy LARISSA MULKERN
Special to the Union Leader
July 30. 2014 11:37PM
HOLDERNESS — The Live Free or Die Chapter of Concerned Veterans for America hosted a “Thank a Vet” barbecue at the Pemigewasset Fish and Game Club House on Saturday.
More than 60 military service veterans turned out to enjoy hotdogs and hamburgers and ice cream, but it was the heaping helpings of gratitude that filled the day.
“It’s all about thanking the veterans,” said organizer Roger Wilkins of the CVA.
“The sponsored Thank A Vet BBQ gives pause to recognize our veterans, our heroes of freedom and liberty. For a few hours we gather as civilians, fellow veterans, military families and those who support the cause of freedom, to pay tribute to the sacrifice given for this country to remain free,” Wilkins said.
The event was co-sponsored by Walpole Creamery, makers of ice cream; and the Pemigewasset Fish and Game Club.
CVA members distributed literature about the organization, signed up new members who received a T-shirt with the organization’s logo. Guests included state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith; Gold Star Mother of U.S. Navy Seal Daniel Healy, Natalie Healy of Exeter; and CVA member Amber Barno who serves as military adviser to CVA and a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Candidates attending the event included Bob Smith, running for U.S. Senate, and recently retired-U.S. Marine veteran Gary Lambert, a candidate running for U.S. Congress.
The national crisis over the long waits for care at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals was on many minds.
“There’s a lot of folks in this room experiencing frustration with the veterans administration, so there’s a lot of people with questions about that, but I’ve got to tell you, the people down in D.C. are not answering,” Lambert said. Lambert said part of his platform is that he will “never stop fighting until we get a V.A. hospital in New Hampshire.”
“That’s number one. After that, if we can’t get a hospital, I want the veterans to get the care they deserve even if that requires treatment at a local hospital,” said Lambert.
James McConnell, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc., New Hampshire State Council, and field director for the Smith for U.S. Senate campaign, agreed with that sentiment.
“The V.A. shouldn’t be fighting this. The V.A. should be making sure this happens if for no other reason to ensure the vets get their care. The truth of the matter is some vets can’t get an appointment and that’s a critical problem,” said McConnell.
“I think any event for veterans is good, but we have a real crisis in the V.A.,” he added.
Some veterans attending arrived on motorcycle at the picturesque Fish and Game Club, taking in a nice ride through the Lakes Region.
Veteran motorcycle club member and Center Harbor resident King Sol of the U.S. Marines Leathernecks Motorcycle Club said he came out for the “free food.”
He sat with fellow riders Zeany Morrison and Paul Mason who belong to the Nam Knights of America Motorcycle Club, which is made up of former military law enforcement veterans.
“Thank you for your service,” said one woman as she passed the trio.
Outside, Pemigewasset Fish and Game Club member and Director Skip Maloney donned his apron and manned the grill.
“I have a blast doing this,” said Maloney, an Army veteran.
For more information on the Concerned Veterans for America, visit www.ConcernedVeteransForAmerica.org.