PEPPERELL -- The Pepperell Army Community Covenant has one mission: To show appreciation for all the sacrifices that military members, both current and former, have made throughout the decades.
As part of that goal, the covenant will be holding a dinner on Nov. 9 in honor of local veterans and active duty service members. The invitation is extended to veterans, current military members and their families in Pepperell and its surrounding communities. The buffet dinner will be held at the Pepperell Senior Center and will be catered by Devens Grill. The group will also be inviting local dignitaries such as Lt. Col. Steve Egan, garrison commander of Fort Devens, state Rep. Sheila Harrington and State Sen. Eileen Donoghue. RSVP is required.
"There are 675 veterans in this town," said covenant Chairman Stephen Themelis. "We thought it would be nice to do something ... to extend a hand out to the community of veterans ... offer them and their families and friends to have dinner on us, so to speak."
Beyond showing gratitude, the covenant also hopes to use the dinner as a platform to promote a new project they are working on: Building a monument in town to the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones.
"What we're hoping to do is try to organize Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to take the lead in putting up a monument in Pepperell honoring their service," said VFW Post Quartermaster Tony Saboliauskas. "We're kind of using the dinner to attract a lot of those from Pepperell. The dinner is for veteran's appreciation and also to launch that project."
The project is in its infancy, having only been conceived about a week ago. Still, the Pepperell VFW and its Men's Auxiliary have already pledged $2,000 to the project to get the ball rolling.
Right now, said Saboliauskas, he is gathering together a list of people who would be interested in serving on a committee to raise funds for and build the monument. He plans to bring it in front of the Board of Selectmen next month. Prior to that meeting, he hopes to be able to recruit some military members at the dinner to serve on the committee. He said he currently has two or three people who have expressed interest.
Because the project is so new, there are currently no plans or cost projections; design, location and all other details are still up in the air.
"The committee will have to determine that criteria," said Saboliauskas. "We'll see what people want to do and how they want to do it. We're going to take a back seat and hopefully let the young people step up and give them the opportunity to participate in the community."
Ideally, the covenant would like to have the monument built by Jan. 1, 2015.
"That's the date that President Obama has set for withdrawal of all the troops," said Saboliauskas.
The covenant is also continuing their monthly tradition of holding a veteran's breakfast at the senior center. The next breakfast will be held on Oct. 5. Donoghue is the sponsor and guest speaker for the event. The breakfasts have been held for about a year, and Themelis says they will continue as long as people continue to show support for them.
"We want to continue to acknowledge and pay respect to everyone who served the country," he said.