SALEM, N.H. — Thanking Veterans for their service, Woodbury School welcomed dozens of veterans and their family members for a breakfast to kick off Veterans Day celebrations. The themes throughout the Woodbury celebration were gratitude and unity.
Former Salem Fire Chief and current New Hampshire Fire Marshal Paul Parisi was the main speaker Friday morning. Parisi painted the story of how his time serving in the Army was invaluable to his career.
"My time in uniform, the lessons that I learned, were perhaps some of the most important factors in shaping me into who I am today as a citizen, as a leader and as a man," Parisi said.
Parisi, who has attended the Woodbury breakfast for years, said he was apprehensive about sharing his experiences because he was not a combat veteran. However, it was a story about his first day at boot camp that he used to highlight the lessons he learned.
When he turned 17, Parisi enlisted in the Army, though he had to finish high school before attending boot camp. While he was still in school he attended weekend training where he learned how to march.
When he got to basic training, Parisi volunteered the fact that he indeed knew how to march.
"Now it's been said, if you are in the military, the last thing you do is volunteer for anything. But I will admit stepping forward that day was one of the best things that I ever did," Parisi said, explaining that his experience lead him to be a platoon guide for basic training as the youngest in his platoon.
In charge of the group of 60 soldiers, ages 17 to 30, Parisi found himself being held accountable for his fellow soldiers doing their chores, and as a mediator in disagreements.
"I learned attention to detail, setting clear expectations throughout our platoon, holding people accountable, treating people with dignity and respect, conflict resolution, leadership lessons and values that I carry with me to this day," Parisi said.
Students in attendance at the event were reminded by every speaker at the event of how those who served in the military sacrificed, and how they are example citizens.
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., spoke of her trip earlier this year to Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. She encouraged students to learn the history of World War II, explaining that the Allied troops were fighting fascist dictators who wanted to take over the world.
Allied forces prevailed and "saved our freedoms," she said, adding that it was people coming from all different backgrounds to serve for the larger cause of saving those freedoms.
"When you unleash talent from everyone it makes us stronger," Hassan said, urging students to think about pursuing civil service. "It's the American mission to bring out the best in each other."
Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte agreed, challenging the students to thank veterans more than one day a year.
The Republican told the students about how, when her husband was serving abroad in the Air Force, she would send care packages with his favorite food: Froot Loops. She suggested that maybe the students think about sharing some of their Halloween candy by mailing care packages to military members abroad currently.
She said that though less than 1% of U.S. citizens serve in the military, "they really show us what unity means" by treating each other with respect and coming together for a cause greater than themselves.
Students sitting in the audience respectfully reflected on the day's speeches. Three sixth-graders read essays thanking the veterans for their service.
"Not only do they give us protection, but their protection keeps us free," said sixth-grader Jack Marconi, reading from his essay.