Wednesday, May 25th, 2022

Hero Meals are ‘thank you’ to veterans and military members, and their families

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hero meals 2021

November 2021 -“We feel the least we can do is say thank you,” said Military Friends Foundation Executive Director Sarah Sweeney. Sweeney was getting things ready for the Hero Meals event at the foundation’s headquarters on Humphrey Street in Swampscott. While her husband Mike, who is in the National Guard and is the veterans services agent for Lynn and Swampscott, was wielding packing tape and moving boxes, Sweeney took a few minutes to explain why saying thank you is so important.

The foundation was set up after the 9/11 attacks, Sweeney said, to recognize the service and sacrifice of military families. The U.S. military is active year-round, both abroad and at home, Sweeney said, and their families also make sacrifices. None more so than the Gold Star families, whose loved ones died in service to their country. “We’ve seen our military nation-wide be called up over the past 21 months in sort of an unprecedented fashion,” she said.

The National Guard was called up to help on the front lines of the COVID pandemic to administer vaccines, to provide support to law enforcement during protests, and to deliver PPE to police stations across the state, she said. Her husband was away for six months working at the warehouse in Marlborough, where the PPE brought in by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft landed and was packaged for delivery. Service members from Massachusetts are stationed in the Middle East right now, Sweeney said, and were in Kabul when the airport was bombed in August.

“Even though after 20 years, it might not be on the front pages, we certainly keep those families in the front of our minds,” Sweeney said.

They always remember us

The Hero Meals were provided curbside to veterans and their families, the families of active military, and Gold Star families. Each box contained a $100 grocery gift card, pies, hand-made thank you cards, and other holiday items.

Army Sgt. First Class Daniel Bertrand, who is a Swampscott resident, was one of the people who placed the Hero Meals in the families’ vehicles.

Gold Star wives Jeanette Rose-Gutshall and Donna Misiaszek, whose husbands served in Vietnam, were on hand and said they’re thankful to the Military Friends and its many volunteers just for remembering them. “Sarah and Mike, they make such a difference in our lives,” Rose-Gutshall said. “They never forget us.” “We’re very appreciative to Sarah because she always remembers us,” Misiaszek said.

Military and civilian families working together

The Military Friends Foundation runs on private donations and provides support and assistance to veterans and their families, active military and their families, and Gold Star families. The organization is active year-round, Sweeney said, and supports those from all branches of the military. “Yesterday we were able to provide our first meal to someone who is serving in the Space Force,” Sweeney said.

Operation Military Smiles, Sweeney said, is a December initiative that helps families with gifts during the holiday season. Last year, she said, the big bay window at the Swampscott headquarters made the curbside pickup easier and more enjoyable for families. They could see the gifts in the front window and pick out what they wanted, Sweeney said.

The foundation brings together the military and civilian populations. The support of non-military families is critical, Sweeney said.

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