MANCHESTER, Conn. — It was a long-awaited reunion of holiday cheer for some 300 local veterans at the Elks Lodge in Manchester on Thursday. It was the first time they had come together in person for the annual holiday luncheon in two years.
The luncheon – now in its 7th year – is a time for local veterans to catch up with old friends and get a warm coat and a warm meal.
"It’s that camaraderie that the other veterans know, 'I’m going through this, this is what gets me through the holidays," said Gerry Gallo, the co-veterans chairman for the Elks Lodge.
One of the veterans in attendance served in World War II and will turn 101 years old this February.
"It’s nice to see the people you’ve seen over the years," said 100-year-old Water Grunder, who also received an award for his service at the luncheon.
The Elks Lodge teams up with Johnson Brunetti Retirement and Investment Specialists to make sure veterans know they are loved and appreciated.
"It’s just appreciation. It’s appreciation and it’s acknowledgment. I’m really excited about the crowd today, it’s the biggest crowd we’ve had obviously even before Covid, it’s a much bigger crowd. We just appreciate our veterans," said Joel Johnson, a managing partner with Johnson Brunetti.
The coats and meals come at a time when some veterans need the help the most.
With winter coming, service members also got new hats, gloves and warm socks.
Organizers are already looking forward to next year and watching the turnout continue to grow.
Lindsey Kane is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at Lkane@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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