PEABODY -- During his two deployments to Afghanistan, Stephen Patten didn’t know what he would have done without modern-day tools like email and Skype that kept him in touch with his family.
Yesterday morning, all he had to do to understand was talk to one of the hundreds of other veterans who gathered yesterday inside Wiggin Auditorium at Peabody City Hall.
“I talked to one veteran who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam,” said Patten, a captain in the Army. “What they went through makes me proud of our veterans and appreciate what they did for us.”
The mingling of veterans ranging from World War II to the current war in Afghanistan came about thanks to the first Peabody Veterans Day Breakfast hosted by Mayor Ted Bettencourt.
More than 350 veterans and their families packed the grand auditorium not only for eggs and sausage but to be recognized by the city for their service.
As a new mayor, Bettencourt told the crowd that he felt an obligation to thank the veterans for providing a “protective shield” for his generation.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my life,” he said. “In many ways I’ve been blessed. I married a woman I love, I have three happy young daughters. I have these advantages and gifts I’ve been given, and they have been afforded to me because of all of you.”
As Bettencourt went from table to table greeting people, veterans handed him pictures and told stories of their wartime experiences.
“It really touches me,” he said.
Tom Paras, who helped build a camp and roads in Da Nang while serving in the Navy Seabees during the Vietnam War, said the gathering of such a large group of veterans should help people remember their service.
“Today a lot of people are distant from what’s happening, so they don’t consider the veterans from a long time ago,” Paras said. “This is a good reminder of how we arrived at and maintained our freedom.”