AMHERST — The United States as a country is a miracle that many of its citizens take for granted, Army veteran Marvin Dwayne Jones says.
As a way to mark Veterans Day, Jones, of Hadley, gave those gathered at Amherst’s first-ever Salute to Veterans Breakfast on Monday morning a history lesson in how the country was founded, emphasizing both the rights of citizenship, as well as the duties citizenship carries.
It is those duties that Jones demonstrated through his service toward the end of the Vietnam War, stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base in the former West Germany and later at Bitburg Air Base in Germany.
Surrounded by tables decorated with flowers and signs reading "thank you for your service” and "Happy Veterans Day,” more than 30 veterans and their families packed into the Large Activity Room at the Bangs Community Center for the meal before heading to a brief ceremony on the North Common in front of Town Hall, where the lowering and then raising of the American flag took place at the 11th hour of the 11th month’s 11th day.
The Salute to Veterans Breakfast was coordinated by the Central Hampshire Veterans Services and the Amherst Senior Center.
Retired Air Force Col. Terry Fenstad, commander of the American Legion Post 148, called the breakfast a "welcome change” for Amherst and said that he and other veterans were pleased that it went beyond what has been customary for the day’s celebrations.
Council President Lynn Griesemer thanked veterans and reflected on her visit to Normandy, where she was moved by a 103-year-old veteran paying his respects at the grave of a fellow soldier lost during a World War II battle.
State Rep. Mindy Domb used her remarks to celebrate veterans and the need to remain committed to services for them, including, housing, food and health care.
Domb also called on the Trump administration to stop deporting noncitizens who have served in the military and said that her paternal grandfather earned U.S. citizenship through his service in World War I.
During the ceremony on the common, Gamalier Rosa, a member of the VFW Post 754, performed the National Anthem; the Rev. Christopher Carlisle, of the Episcopal Diocese and Building Bridges Initiative, read an invocation; and Bobby Klesch, a junior at Hopkins Academy, played taps.
Steve Connor, veterans agent, said support from senior center volunteers made the breakfast possible.
In addition, seven students from Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School’s culinary arts department prepared the fresh fruit, pumpkin bread, scrambled eggs, home fries, bacon and sausage that were served.
"We get involved with community service projects on occasion,” said Nelson Lacey, Smith’s culinary arts department head. "So far, a lot of gratitude has been shown.”
Amber Pensivy, a sophomore from Peru, said this was the first time she did an off-campus event and that she was pleased to meet several veterans, including one who showed a photo taken during his time in the Korean War.
The students not only were preparing food on a vacation day but had to start their work before 7 a.m. to have it ready for the veterans.
Scott Merzbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.