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Breakfast at University of Massachusetts in Amherst honors veterans

  • Matt Bachmann, left, executive officer of the University of Massachusetts Army ROTC, Navy veteran and UMass student Brendan Davenport and Army veteran and UMass graduate student Dan Alexander help themselves at the buffet during a Warriors Breakfast hosted by the UMass Amherst Office of Veteran Services in Memorial Hall on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Matt Bachmann, left, executive officer of the University of Massachusetts Army ROTC, Navy veteran and UMass student Brendan Davenport and Army veteran and UMass graduate student Dan Alexander help themselves at the buffet during a Warriors Breakfast hosted by the UMass Amherst Office of Veteran Services in Memorial Hall on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Air Force veteran Madeline Peters, right, of Springfield, Director of Disability Services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, talks about what Veterans Day means to her during a Warriors Breakfast hosted by the UMass Amherst Office of Veteran Services in Memorial Hall on Friday. At left is Doris Portillo, Tech Sargeant to the UMass Air Force ROTC.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Air Force veteran Madeline Peters, right, of Springfield, Director of Disability Services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, talks about what Veterans Day means to her during a Warriors Breakfast hosted by the UMass Amherst Office of Veteran Services in Memorial Hall on Friday. At left is Doris Portillo, Tech Sargeant to the UMass Air Force ROTC.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Navy veteran and University of Massachusetts student Jean Jarnagin, left, reads aloud a dedication to the Fallen Soldiers Table, foreground, to begin a Warriors Breakfast hosted by the UMass Amherst Office of Veteran Services during a Veterans Day tribute in Memorial Hall on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Navy veteran and University of Massachusetts student Jean Jarnagin, left, reads aloud a dedication to the Fallen Soldiers Table, foreground, to begin a Warriors Breakfast hosted by the UMass Amherst Office of Veteran Services during a Veterans Day tribute in Memorial Hall on Friday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Matt Bachmann, left, executive officer of the University of Massachusetts Army ROTC, Navy veteran and UMass student Brendan Davenport and Army veteran and UMass graduate student Dan Alexander help themselves at the buffet during a Warriors Breakfast hosted by the UMass Amherst Office of Veteran Services in Memorial Hall on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Air Force veteran Madeline Peters, right, of Springfield, Director of Disability Services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, talks about what Veterans Day means to her during a Warriors Breakfast hosted by the UMass Amherst Office of Veteran Services in Memorial Hall on Friday. At left is Doris Portillo, Tech Sargeant to the UMass Air Force ROTC.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Navy veteran and University of Massachusetts student Jean Jarnagin, left, reads aloud a dedication to the Fallen Soldiers Table, foreground, to begin a Warriors Breakfast hosted by the UMass Amherst Office of Veteran Services during a Veterans Day tribute in Memorial Hall on Friday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

“I think sometimes veterans are afraid to show who we are. This allows us to take pride in who we are. It’s American pride,” said Madeline Peters of Springfield, director of disability services at UMass.

Peters was one of more than 40 faculty, staff and student veterans who came to enjoy a buffet-style meal of pancakes, bacon, eggs and home fries and receive service flag pins and “thank a veteran” buttons at the third annual Warrior Breakfast.

Wearing a ball cap indicating her five-year stint in the Air Force in the 1970s as she entered Memorial Hall, Peters said the breakfast allows her to express openly what is often in her heart.

“Coming here today and being amongst active duty and veterans makes you feel the camaraderie,” Peters said. “That veteran pride will always be there no matter what.”

The breakfast kicked off Veterans Day recognitions on the UMass campus that continued with the Friday afternoon laying of a ceremonial wreath outside Memorial Hall by Army and Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps units on campus, a 21-gun salute and an overnight vigil by the cadets ending at sunrise Saturday.

Judy Gagnon, director of the Office of Veteran Services, said the breakfast offers a chance to appreciate active and retired personnel and their families.

Gagnon said she organized the first breakfast in 2010 because a growing number of students on campus are veterans. At least 435 students, Gagnon said, receive benefits through the post-9/11 GI Bill, and she is responsible for a drop-in place and resource center for these students.

One such student, Vincent Sarno of Southfield, was accompanied by his 2-year-old son Dominic.

“It’s nice to see people on campus and around the area respect the commitment we made as service members,” Sarno said.

Sarno, who served more than 12 years in the Air Force, is now pursuing a degree in accounting. While at Berkshire Community College the last two years, he was president of a student veterans organization and is now treasurer for Veteran One, a similar organization at UMass

Though Dominic may be too young to understand the importance of the breakfast, Sarno said it will give him a sense of what his father has done.

“I think all my kids should have some idea of what my service has been,” Sarno said.

Others said the breakfast is about thoughtfulness by campus officials.

“It’s an honor, especially here, to know we’re appreciated,” said Doris Portillo, technical sergeant for the Air Force ROTC program that supports about 30 cadets.

Portillo, originally from Rockford, Ill., joined the Air Force in 2000, serving at bases in England and Pensacola, Fla., as well as the Pentagon.

Jeff Charron, who was born in Maine and spent time in Hawaii in a military family, is now operations flight commander for the Air Force ROTC.

Veterans Day, he said, has always been important to him.

“I come from a military family, so I get to thank my father for his service and other people who have served before us,” Charron said.

Brendan Davenport of Virginia Beach, Va., liked being able to come to the breakfast.

“This a nice recognition of the service we’ve done for our country,” Davenport said.

“It’s a good chance for veterans on campus to come together,” said Major Matt Bachmann of the Army ROTC program.

Prior to the breakfast, prisoners of war and those missing in action were honored at the fallen soldier table. A rose and candle were at the center of the table, along with a yellow ribbon and an empty chair.

Jean Jarnagin of Beaumont, Texas, who served four years in the Navy and is now an anthropology major at UMass, read a proclamation about those who couldn’t make it.

For Jarnagin, Veterans Day is about the long history of service. “It’s honoring the veterans from the formation of our country,” Jarnagin said.

Eight members of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-educational service organization at UMass, assisted Gagnon in putting on the breakfast.

Sarah Kristy, a junior from Sandwich, said the members set up the chairs and greeted guests. She was happy to take part in the event. “It’s a good idea to keep veterans in mind,” Kristy said.

Besides the breakfast and vigil, the School of Education and 4-H’s Operation Military Kids are preparing to co-host a two-day institute sponsored by the Military Child Education Coalition called “Living in the New Normal: Helping Children Thrive in Good and Challenging Times” Nov. 14 and 15 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in rooms 165 to 169 in the Campus Center.

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