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SWAMPSCOTT ― As burgers and hotdogs sizzled on the grill, veterans, active military members, and their families checked out different booths set up by service organizations, mingled while petting miniature therapy ponies, and played cornhole on the town’s Veterans and Military Community Service Day.
“Let’s build on this day,” said Master Sergeant Patrick Burke. “Let’s make new friends and reestablish old friendships.”
Swampscott American Legion, Lynn-Swampscott Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Marine Corps League joined forces to raise awareness for veterans and military families about the different services Swampscott offers them at an event on Saturday, September 25 at VFW Post 1240. Veterans who served in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan were in attendance.
“The past few years have been difficult,” Disabled American Veterans Commander Jeffery Blonder said. He said that COVID-19 added another level of anxiety and stress to the veterans community. “We’d like to have this event twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.”
Blonder said that the current Veterans of Foreign Wars building will soon be changed to a center for veterans who served at home and overseas.
SR5, a country rock band from Middleton, said that they were honored to get the chance to perform at the event and show support for local veterans.
“We get to do something nice for those who gave a lot for us,” said lead singer Sabrina Ryan.
Dan Bertrand, an active member of the Guard Reserve in the National Guard and sergeant first class in the Army, said that it was encouraging to see people come out in support outside of holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Bertrand, who was rocking his 2-year-old son Decklan, said that he and his wife both served. He is still an active member of the military, going on 21 years of service, and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He said that days when members of the military community can get together are extremely important for him.
“It improves mental health among the vet community,” Bertrand said. “We have a shared understanding; we shed the same sweat and blood. There’s no judgement here.”
Katelyn Sahagian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.