The event was held on Nov. 7, with more than 200 veterans in attendance.
Multiple generations came together to share a meal and their stories at the Veterans Breakfast hosted by Indian Mills School on Nov. 7.
The third annual event to honor local veterans, coordinated by Karen Clementi and Kerry Haines, marked the year with the highest attendance rate to date, welcoming more than 200 veterans into the school.
“I’m overwhelmed by the turnout of this, it really is a great way to honor our community members, especially the veterans within our community,” IMS Principal Nicole Moore said. “It’s a way to bring people to the school that wouldn’t necessarily have an opportunity to come otherwise.”
That rings especially true for Vietnam veteran Joe Beldonza, who heard about the event through The Sun and decided to attend the event solo.
Beldonza dusted off his U.S. Army jacket and wore it for the occasion for the first time in 30 years. He said after moving to Shamong about three months ago, he figured this would be a nice way to meet new people and get to know his new community better.
“There’s not too many [Vietnam veterans] left anymore and all the younger kids are seeing on TV are war stories and it’s much more than that,” Beldonza said. “It’s about the service and what the service can do to build your character. Understanding what the service really does, to me, is more important for people to know.”
Even years after his time serving, he feels the skills and discipline remained with him, shaping how he maintains a clean house and his ability to support himself, and for that, he said he owes the Army.
Similarly, veteran Alan Levy, who enlisted in the Marines in 2000, took his skills to the law enforcement field, currently serving as a Mt. Laurel police officer.
Levy attended the Veterans Breakfast with his four children who attend IMS, Sophia, Jake, John and Justin, and he expressed his gratitude for the opportunity the elementary school has provided for children to learn more about service members.
“This gives [the children] a chance to learn how free we are in our country because of the men and women who fought for our country — this encompasses everything Veterans Day is about.” Levy said. “It helps them understand how safe our military keeps us.”
Sophia crafted a handmade card for her father, thanking him for what he’s done to help protect the United States. She said she feels it is important to recognize his service to the country.
Throughout the process of preparing for the Veterans Breakfast, Sophia said, “[I’ve learned] that veterans risked their lives for our country.”
Each year the event brings in more veterans than the last, and the IMS staff joked about needing more tables to accommodate the anticipated attendance of veterans in the future.
When asked about her reaction to the event’s success, Clementi said, “I got goosebumps when you asked me, it’s overwhelming turnout, and we’re just so thankful and grateful to all these people for coming out.”