Pinkerton Academy Hosts Breakfast for Area Veterans

Richard Flibotte of Derry enlisted in the Second World War at the age of 17. Did he know what he was getting into?
“No,” he said as he sipped coffee and finished a muffin in Pinkerton Academy’s Freshman Cafeteria.
He found out fast enough while serving in the Pacific Theater, though Flibotte was lucky not to suffer injuries. And though his efforts and those of his fellow servicepeople rid the world of three dictators, Flibotte shrugged off the title of “Greatest Generation.”
“The ones that came after us,” he said, “did a good job too.”
He looked up at the high school girl asking him if he needed anything. “You could bring me another muffin,” Flibotte said.

For the 19th year, Pinkerton Academy held its Veterans Breakfast for area vets and their families. The Freshman Cafeteria was filled with people who had served in Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea and peacetime, plus a sprinkling of World War II veterans. More than 100 people stopped by, on a chilly Veterans Day Monday morning, to accept their thanks.
The cafeteria was decorated in red, white and blue, including red and white roses at each table and handmade “thank you” cards from local elementary students. Members of the Pinkerton Food Service staff worked the holiday, dishing out scrambled eggs, potatoes, pancakes, sausage and smiles to the senior class members who waited on the veterans. There was no buffet here – the vets’ simplest wishes were granted by the smiling students.
The Pinkerton Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) presented the colors, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Senior Matthew McGuinness sang the National Anthem.
Senior Class President Natalie Fabrizio gave the student welcome, praising people whose “love for America was so great, they worked for more than a paycheck.” Because of their sacrifices, she said, she and her classmates have “the right to vote, the right to education and a bright future.”
Four of her family members fought in four separate wars and all came home safely, Fabrizio said. She asked for a moment of silence for those who didn’t.
Faculty member Doug Gootee read a poem, “What Is A Veteran,” written by Denis O’Brien, U.S. Marine Corps. Administrator Roger Konstant gave a faculty welcome and introduced guest speaker Bruce Alger, who implored the audience not to forget veterans.
He reminded the students to give thanks to Korean Conflict veterans, many of whom are still alive and accessible. He urged the students to interview them, noting, “Millions of Koreans live in freedom today because of these people. It’s a piece of America that should be preserved. They did it for you, even though you weren’t born yet – or your parents.”
The class officers read personal tributes to those who served, followed by a candlelight ceremony with readings. It was announced that veterans could attend the upcoming Pinkerton Players production of “It’s A Wonderful Life” at no cost. Special flower arrangements were given to Alger and the family of the late Ralph Van Nostrand, a Pinkerton teacher who had been involved with the Veterans Breakfast for many years.
Flowers for the event were donated by local florists Bachmann Florist and Wisteria Florist.
At the end, the students gave the vets a standing ovation – and the veterans returned it.
Kristen Abbott and Jonathan Fowler are the senior class advisers. As she directed students in cleanup, Abbott said the event doesn’t require registration, and usually draws 150 to 200 people.
The breakfast drew veterans from around the region, including Dave Johnson of Londonderry and his friend Ralph Helms. “It’s a tradition for us,” Johnson said.
Helms showed some of that military toughness when he said, “I was in the hospital last year, and they let me out for this.”
Johnson served in Korea, and Helms is a 20-year veteran of both Korea and Vietnam. “I know, I don’t look that old,” he said jokingly.
Mike Tucker of Auburn is a newbie – it was his second time at the breakfast. Tucker, 68, is retired career military. He served in Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraq. Over the years, he’s seen public treatment of veterans change, and he lays the credit at Ronald Reagan’s doorstep.
“It began to change then,” he said. “Vietnam was an unpopular conflict that was never declared a war.”
Operation Desert Storm, which had more popular support, was the real turning point, Tucker said, adding, “It’s been a lot more positive – support for veterans, military on the whole has changed.”
In addition to Fabrizio and McInnis, students who participated included: personal tributes, Michael Luppold, Ben Foley and Skyla Gorman; and candle-lighting ceremony, Brooke Kirby, Kinsey Manchester, Eva Murray and Samantha Welch.

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