Senior center honors veterans with ceremony, luncheon

Nov 7, 2020

Flags waved in the unseasonably warm sunshine at the Dartmouth senior center as car after car drove through to pick up a special pre-Veterans Day luncheon on Nov. 6.

Local veterans, town officials, and members of the Dartmouth Police Department came out to honor all those who have served in a small ceremony at the center’s Veterans Memorial Grove.

Afterwards, members of the Dartmouth Memorial Auxiliary handed out lunches of steak tips and shrimp to veterans and their families as they drove by.

The drive-thru event replaces the Council on Aging’s annual lunch for veterans, sponsored by Rep. Chris Markey and the Dartmouth Friends of the Elderly.

“It’s usually our largest event,” said COA director Amy DiPietro, who noted that it’s traditionally packed shoulder to shoulder with veterans and their families. “It’s really the best event that we have throughout the year.”

Jason Ray, an Army veteran himself, handed out citations from the Massachusetts government recognizing participants for their service.

Ray is undertaking a 22-mile fundraising walk as an ambassador for Mission 22, a nonprofit that provides services to support the veteran community.

“I have met and exceeded my goal,” he said. “I actually raised it up to $2,200, and we are well over that.”

Veterans Advisory Board chair Chris Pereira said the board was happy to support the town’s veterans in a variety of ways. 

“Our veterans, they’re just the best,” he said. “It’s great to be able to give back a little to them —  give them some breakfast, and a little cheer.”

“And the weather worked out for us too,” he added with a laugh. “This is probably the best you can ask for on a November day in New England. So we’ll take it.”

Board member Norm Gunderson noted that the town will be hosting another ceremony on Veterans Day itself.

“Since so many other towns are canceling their events, I’m glad that we’ll still have ours, rain or shine,” he said.

Dartmouth Police came out “to show our support for the veterans, and all that they have done for this country,” noted Chief Brian Levesque after the ceremony.

“This is one of those times that you like to come to these things, because these people make real sacrifices, and their families have made real sacrifices,” said Rep. Chris Markey, who has been organizing the lunches since 2010.

“I’ve got an 18-year-old son right now, and I think of what happens if he got shipped off somewhere, and how much I’d worry,” he added. “And these people went out and put their lives on the line.”

Dartmouth Veterans Service Officer Matt Brouillette said that the town’s first Veterans Day ceremony went really smoothly.

“Everything everyone said was very poignant,” he said. “And it’s always fun to see the veterans. Because of Covid, it’s tough. But just to see them, and get that human connection back. It’s nice.”

Former town Veterans Service Officer and 23-year Air Force service member Roy Oliveira spoke at the ceremony. Afterwards, he noted that he hadn’t prepared his remarks.

“It’s easy to talk about veterans, and what we as a community need to do for our veterans,” he said, adding that the event was “very uplifting.”

“I can’t leave [the job] behind,” he added with a laugh. “As a veteran, you’re always looking to help other veterans.”