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Lt. Commander John Murphy stands next to Sen. Kelly Ayotte as they meet members of the Sea Cadets of the U.S. Naval Reserve in Londonderry on Thursday. (ADAM SWIFT/Union Leader Correspondent)

Ayotte honors veterans, their families and cadets at annual gathering

DERRY — U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, made several local stops Thursday — the actual date of Memorial Day — to honor those men and women have served the country and to offer encouragement to those who may someday also serve.

In Derry, Ayotte addressed the hundreds of veterans and their families who attended an annual veterans' appreciation cookout sponsored by the Derry and Derry Village rotary clubs.

"Every generation has stepped forward and served this country," said Ayotte. "We only enjoy freedom because of the sacrifices of the men and women of this great country."

Ayotte noted that Thursday was the true date of Memorial Day, and said it was only fitting to honor all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

"It's also important that we recognize the families of those who served," said Ayotte, whose husband served in Iraq. "You have served our nation. When a loved one serves, you serve as well."

She added that is important to remember the 60,000 troops now serving in Afghanistan as well as the troops serving in other dangerous areas around the globe.

"Let's say a prayer for them to come home safely and as soon as possible," said Ayotte.

For the veterans attending the cookout, it was a chance to connect with others who have served the country through wars going back to World War II.

Navy veteran Herb Billingsley was warmly greeted by Pearl Harbor survivor Jim Billotta, and Army veteran Tony Bruno said the day is a good chance to catch up with friends no matter what branch of the military they served in.

"It's a day to really appreciate how many people served," said Bruno.

After speaking in Derry, Ayotte visited members of the Sea Cadets at the U.S. Naval Reserve Center in Londonderry.

The Sea Cadets are an organization for young people between 10 and 18 based on core Naval values of discipline, leadership, and respect, according to Lt. Commander John Murphy.

Ayotte said she was inspired to see a group of young people aspiring to those values.

"It's an honor to see the future leaders of the country," she said.

Murphy noted that the Sea Cadets are under no requirement to join the military when they complete their service, but said all the cadets benefit no matter what they do.

"It teaches values they can take anywhere," said Ayotte.

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