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Bristol community gathers to pay tribute to the fallen on Memorial Day

Richard Nialetz and Dan Arsenault saluted after laying a wreath on the war monument at Newfound Memorial Middle School on Monday. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
May 31, 2017
BRISTOL — Veterans, Scouting organizations and the Newfound Regional High School band joined members of the Newfound Area VFW Post 10640 and George Minot Cavis American Legion Post 26 for a solemn Memorial Day parade that led from Freudenberg NOK on Pleasant Street in Bristol to Newfound Memorial Middle School where a special ceremony then took place.

Along the route the contingency paused at Richard W. Musgrove Bridge to pay tribute to the brave men and women lost at sea while serving their country. After flowers were tossed into the waters of the Newfound River, James Shokal of NRHS played "Taps" while James Rogers followed with the Echo. Rev. Wayne Toutaint offered prayers for veterans who gave their life for the nation's freedoms and an Honor Guard presented a gun salute as a final tribute.

At the school, VFW Post 10640 Commander Ron Preble served as Master of Ceremonies and introduced the NRHS band, which performed "God Bless America" to start the event. VFW Post 10640's Adjutant Dan Arsenault and American Legion Commander Richard Nialetz were called upon to place a wreath at the monument on the school's front lawn and Maddison Nialetz sang the National Anthem.

Commander Preble then explained that the VFW sponsors an essay competition for local youth to participate in each year and he called upon Kaylan Santamaria to read her winning selection for 2017 on the topic "My Responsibility to America."

Santamaria noted in her speech that while she is "merely a speck" on the planet, there is "still no room for negligence." She talked about the strength and determination she has seen in her father over the years and said she hopes to not only follow in his footsteps but connect her education to the future of her success. The NRHS junior were also thanked America's veterans by acknowledging their bravery and sacrifices that have allowed her the privilege of calling herself an American. Santamaria went on to encourage people to remember the responsibilities that come with our freedoms and be involved in the Democratic process so they, too, can start to make a difference.

"Voting is critical toward the growth and change of America, something we should all be working toward," she concluded. "I hope the impact I make is one that impacts and glorifies the United States."

Rev. Toutaint closed the proceedings with one final prayer, which ended with the plea, "Let us never forget those who gave their all."

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