PEPPERELL — When the troops come home and the uniforms are taken off, the soldiers move on to a new era in their lives.
In Pepperell, they find camaraderie at the VFW. Every month, the local Army Covenant puts out an abundant breakfast spread for veterans and their friends and family.
This year, the monthly Saturday morning breakfast almost coincided with the yearly early-bird breakfast the VFW post sponsors. So, they combined forces and did the Covenant breakfast a day early, on Veterans Day.
For some, the monthly breakfast is a must.
“We’re friends,” said Robert Delia. “You can’t take that away.”
The retired command sergeant major sat at a table with three other Army veterans, bantering and joking. At some point, each had been posted at Devens, but not necessarily at the same time.
Others were with their families, taking part in one of the oldest traditions — generations sitting down to eat together.
Natalie Call, who retired in 2005 after serving in Iraq, helped run the front table. Her life since returning home continues to change. She is a VFW trustee and just got married this summer.
Like families, the camaraderie is inter-generational.
State Rep. Sheila Harrington touched on the difficulties some veterans had after they returned home to a country hostile to the war they fought in Vietnam.
“They came home. Nothing happened,” she said. “That really is heartbreaking.”
Heads nodded throughout the room.
“We can never thank you enough,” said state Sen. Eileen Donoghue. “You are what makes this country great.”
The free breakfasts are sponsored by businesses that provide funding and volunteers. This month was 1A Auto, Pepperell Family Pharmacy and Lyons and Tzanoudakis Law.
The overwhelming support allows the Pepperell Army Covenant to donate to other veterans’ causes, said organizer Stephen Themelis.
The core group of volunteers are town employees. Veteran’s Agent Joe Mazzola turned out some awesome omelets. His wife Peggy Mazzola, administrative assistant to the town administrator, was busy keeping things running in the kitchen.
Tax Collector/Treasurer Debbie Nutter was hard at work, with a giant smile for everyone she saw. Even Town Administrator Mark Andrews got in on the act, flipping pancakes.
The whole idea is to honor the veterans, Themelis said.
They were both honored and well-fed.
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