SALEM — Middle school students and state officials honored veterans and their family members at the annual Woodbury School Veterans Day Breakfast on Friday morning.
More than 200 people attended the annual breakfast, with musical performances by middle school students between speakers. Three student essayists shared their thoughts about the importance of veterans and speakers included U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and New Hampshire Adjutant Gen. David Mikolaities.
While the New Hampshire governor traditionally attends the event, Gov. Chris Sununu was unable to make it this year due to a family commitment he could not reschedule. His policy director and fellow Salem native D.J. Bettencourt, thanked veterans on his behalf and read a veterans day proclamation. He said the event is “one of Gov. Sununu’s favorite events of the year.”
The keynote speaker was State Fire Marshal Paul Parisi, who previously served as the Salem Fire Chief and was in the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
Parisi said his time in uniform and the lessons he learned were perhaps the most important factors in shaping him into the man he would become.
He said he learned valuable lessons about attention to detail, conflict resolution, leadership and setting and achieving goals.
“Most importantly, I learned the importance of selfless service,” Parisi said.
Hassan was the first to thank veterans for their service, calling them the “strongest force for good in the world.”
Ayotte said she was inspired by the veterans at the event, and thanked them for defending freedom, the American way of life and showing the rest of us how to love our country. She also thanked the family members of veterans, saying their love and support makes the service of our veterans possible.
Addressing the students, Ayotte suggested they find ways to honor veterans on other days of the year, with ideas like writing them letters or sending a portion of their Halloween candy to a military member serving overseas.
Julie Weymouth, the founder and director of Homeland Heroes Foundation, a New England charity that provides donated furniture and household items to veterans and supports them with some housing and therapy programs, spoke about the organization.
Salem officials, including Town Manager Chris Dillon, Superintendent of Schools Michael Delahanty, Sen. Chuck Morse, and leaders of the Salem police and fire departments were also in attendance. Woodbury School Principal Brad St. Laurent emceed the event.
During a rendition by a sixth-grade chorus of the different military service songs, veterans stood when the song of the branch they served in was being performed, and members of the Salem High School Junior ROTC displayed flags for each branch.
Organizer Cindi Woodbury said she was pleased with how the event went.
“I love the fact that they enjoy coming every year,” Woodbury said of the veterans.