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Londonderry Middle School art teacher Brandon Stumpf and veteran Steve Costa salute the flag during the school's Veterans Day ceremony Thursday morning. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

A heartfelt salute

Veterans remembered at Londonderry Middle School

LONDONDERRY -- Local veterans weren't forgotten at Londonderry Middle School on Thursday morning, when students and staff paused from their morning activities to honor those who served.

Veterans Brandon Stumpf and Stephen Costa were the guests of honor Thursday, as members of the student council and the Cleft Notes chorus gathered around the flagpole in remembrance.

"Make sure you stop and thank a veteran this weekend," student Evan Miller, who is the vice president of the student council, told the crowd as a chorus of earnest young voices burst into song with a performance of "Thank You Soldiers."

Costa, an Army veteran whose many medals include the Silver Star, Purple Heart and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, said the students had approached him earlier this month to ask him his thoughts.

"They really wanted to do something special for this day," said Costa, an active member of the both the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

Stumpf, the school's art teacher, who served as an Army Reserve combat engineer officer from 1994-2004, said there aren't many veterans working at Londonderry Middle School, though there are a handful of staff members whose spouses are, not to mention the dozens of parents who have served at some point.

Teacher Cynthia Hursh, who helped organize Thursday's ceremony along with fellow teacher Joanne Troy, said the support for veterans wouldn't end there.

"We're placing boxes in the main office where our students are collecting items to fill holiday stockings with," Hursh said, noting that the student council has collected more than 100 stockings that need to be filled.

The stockings will be sent off sometime next week in order for enlisted men and women to receive them in time for Christmas.

Eighth-grader Jacob Gagnon, the student council's president, said he's been enjoying the process.

"We've gotten them toothpaste and snacks — just some basic necessities that we thought they could use," Gagnon said. "We just want them to know someone is thinking of them, even if they can't make it home to their families on the holidays."

Next Friday, students can also show their support by wearing a hat to school. Hursh said they're asking students to each pay $1 for the privilege of sporting a hat to class, something that isn't typically allowed at Londonderry Middle School.

The proceeds collected will be donated to local veterans charities.

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