SALEM — Leigh Smith served with the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Ethan Major just returned from Afghanistan, where he was stationed with the National Guard.
The 79-year-old Salem man and Major, his 23-year-old grandson, were among nearly 100 veterans honored for their sacrifice yesterday during the 15th annual veterans breakfast at Woodbury School.
It was a heartfelt time of reflection for the veterans; students and members of the community packed the school gymnasium to thank them for their service.
“This is absolutely great,” said Ralph Vir, a 91-year-old World War II veteran who served in the South Pacific.
The veterans were greeted at the school entrance by an 11-member honor guard and members of the Student Council holding small flags. They were led into the school gymnasium, where they sat down at tables with red, white and blue tablecloths to enjoy a meal of muffins, fruit and juice.
Those who came to honor them included N.H. Gov. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Maj. Gen. William Reddel, the state’s adjutant general. The keynote speaker was Thomas Kelley, a Salem firefighter and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who serves in the National Guard.
“I want to thank you for your selfless service and brave sacrifice,” Hassan said.
The governor told of how her father — a military police officer with the Army — fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.
“He was proud of his service,” she said. “In all of you here today, I see the same strength, resolve and devotion I saw in my dad.
Hassan and Ayotte told the middle school students, some of whom read essays and performed a musical tribute, to follow the examples the veterans set.
“Make sure you go up and talk to them,” Ayotte said. “Ask what they are doing, learn from them.”