Nov. 9, 2023
The North Shore Chamber of Commerce was honored to host the annual Salute to Veterans breakfast on Thursday, Nov. 9 at Danversport.
Together with our premier sponsor, UniCare, and our supporting sponsor, O’Donnell Funeral Services, we welcomed veterans and active military from throughout the North Shore for a celebration of patriotism and service.
Spc. Amy Fichera, an Army National Guard vocalist opened the program with a performance of the National Anthem as the Color Guard presented the colors.
Following an invocation by Chaplain Christopher Ziegler and a moment of silence for all fallen military, Major General Gary Keefe, Adjutant General Massachusetts National Guard, highlighted the importance of Veterans Day as a celebration of service. He thanked employers for recognizing the sacrifice of military and veterans.
General Keefe asked all those in the audience who served to stand as he read the list of wars. We are honored to have been joined by a veteran from World War II, who lives at Brooksby Village. General Keefe also thanked the Gold Star mothers and wives in the audience.
The large crowd listened attentively as keynote speaker Skip Soderholm, a retired Command Sergeant Major and decorated combat veteran with more than 25 years of service to the U.S. Army and U.S. Special Operations Command reflected on his service. Soderholm spent 20 years serving in the Army’s elite Special Missions Unit (SMU) where he served as an operator, team leader, master breacher, instructor, Troop Sergeant Major, Operations Sergeant Major, and Command Sergeant Major. He has 11 combat deployments to the Middle East where he participated in more than 800 combat missions. Soderholm has been awarded 10 Bronze Star medals, twice for valor, along with three Purple Heart medals.
The Salute to Veterans event also included the presentation of the 2023 Minuteman Service Awards. Joe LeBlanc, director of veterans services for North Andover and Boxford, and Paradise Dental Associates, LLC of Salem, were recognized for all the work they do to help the veterans community.
Thank you to the many businesses who sponsored this program, allowing veterans and military to attend for free.
We are pleased to welcome this year’s Keynote Speaker, Skip Soderholm, a retired Command Sergeant Major and decorated combat veteran with more than 25 years of service to the U.S. Army and U.S. Special Operations Command.
Soderholm spent 20 years serving in the Army’s elite Special Missions Unit (SMU) where he served as an operator, team leader, master breacher, instructor, Troop Sergeant Major, Operations Sergeant Major, and Command Sergeant Major. He has 11 combat deployments to the Middle East where he participated in more than 800 combat missions.
Soderholm, a disabled veteran, has been awarded 10 Bronze Star medals, twice for valor, along with three Purple Heart medals. Soderholm is a graduate of many military schools, including the U.S. Army Ranger School, Special Forces Qualification Course, the Operator Training Course, and the US Army Sergeants Major Academy.
The Minuteman Service Award recognizes one individual and one business demonstrating selfless dedication and outstanding leadership to our country in support of our military or veterans community. Our Salute to Veterans Committee — comprised of Chamber members, active military and veterans –reviews all nominations submitted by the community.
During his tenure as veterans services director, Joe LeBlanc has performed countless acts to call attention to veterans and ensure that they are honored. This includes: lobbying for North Andover and Boxford to be named as Purple Heart communities; refurbishing the World War I Memorial to correct misspelled names; working with the Lawrence Exchange Club to host a “Field of Honor” in North Andover; and coordinating a COVID-19 vaccination clinic with the Bedford Veterans Hospital and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2104.
Paradise Dental Associates, LLC, in Salem has a long history of offering dental care to veterans. In previous years, they hosted a day in November where veterans could receive free care at their office. Today, the dentists work with the VA department to provide dental treatment for free, or at a reduced cost, for all veterans.
The North Shore Chamber and UniCare had the privilege of co-hosting our annual tribute to our veterans and servicemen and women on Nov. 10 at the Boston Marriott Peabody.
Thank you to our keynote speaker – Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts – who left us all inspired and grateful for his valor, loyalty and dedication in defense of our nation in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Congratulations to Minutemen Service Award honorees Kristine Babcock, the retired veterans services coordinator for North Shore Community College in Danvers, and Coastal Windows & Exteriors, Inc. of Beverly and its owner, Stephanie Vanderbilt, who were recognized for their exceptional acts of leadership and commitment on behalf of our nation’s military.
We extend our appreciation to the many businesses and individuals who supported our Salute to Veterans Breakfast through their generous sponsorship of tickets to allow our veterans and member of the military to attend the event for free.
Thank you also to the members of our Host Committee who volunteered their time and talents to the success of our annual celebration of patriotism, service and our nation’s military.