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Veterans acknowledge 9/11 by honoring service to others

September 16, 2009
TILTON — On Sept. 11, now known as Patriot's Day, President Obama addressed Americans, saying, "As we pay tribute to loved ones, friends, fellow citizens and all who died, we reaffirm our commitment to the ideas and ideals that unite Americans in the aftermath of the attacks. Working together, we can usher in a new era in which volunteering and service is a way of life for all Americans."

Echoing that sentiment of honor through volunteerism, the residents and staff of the N.H. Veteran's Home acknowledged the day in the same manner, celebrating service to others.

Gathered in the dining hall for a moment of silent remembrance of the 2001 attacks, they then turned to the positive aspects of volunteerism.

Public Information Officer for NHVH, Jackie Bonafide told them, "Patriot Day is held in memory of nearly 3,000 people who died during the terrorist attacks. Being a patriot means putting the needs of your fellow countrymen ahead of your own."

The men and women who reside at the facility are fully aware of what service to others is about, having given of themselves in service to their country. Memories of war scenes, loss of comrades and loved ones remain in their mind, yet they continue to give to others when they are able and appreciate those who arrive at NHVH to assist them as well.

James Mazzuchelli is the NHVH social worker and oversees the Intergenerational Program at the Veteran's Home. This program, he said, involves students from the Winnisquam Regional High School Agricultural Future Farmers of America club and boys and girls from Winnisquam Middle School. With the FFA, veterans and students work together in planting flowers and vegetables each year. The Mentoring Program pairs children and veterans for reading, sharing and learning as old and young spend meaningful time together.

"How fortunate they and the residents of the NHVH all are for the exchanges that happen here," Mazzuchelli said.

The residents still remember all that happened eight years ago and possess a strong desire for memories of that day to live on. They want those memories to serve as a reminder to America of the tragedies of war and terrorism. Harold Palmer, a retired U.S. Army chaplain, said that 9/11 was a wake up call to America.

"We need to let people know this could happen again," he said. "The day after 9/11 the churches were all full but only two days later they were empty. We can't forget that day."

Ellis Howard is a former Quartermaster who served aboard a U.S. Navy submarine and recalls the day quite vividly. His daughter lived just a few blocks from the World Trade Center in New York and he feared for her safety in the uncertainty of the events. He was relieved to finally get through to her and find she was okay, but still remembers the fear he felt in the hours before he reached her. Honoring those who died in the terrorist attacks, he said, was very important and should continue each year.

"They do a nice job with that here," Howard said about NHVH. "I like the fact that we learn something every year. We learn we have to carry on."

And carry on they do, as the residents go about their daily routines, mindful of the people who come to honor their service to the country by serving and working with them now; a small gesture of thanks and respect for the veterans.

Lisa Punderson, volunteer coordinator for NHVH, said they do so because, "They want to give back to those who gave so much for our country."

Those volunteers include veteran organizations like the VFW, American Legion and the Marine Corp League along with many more. Giving, to these former servicemen and women, never ceases.

As NHVH honored whose lost on 9/11 however, they also chose to show that honor by acknowledging volunteers as people who best display the ideals of our nation.

"They can kill us, but they can't kill our spirit," Palmer said.

In her address to the veterans last Friday, Bonafide told the assembly, "We will never forget the images we witnessed that day and we should never forget them. But, we can transform our fear and sadness into determination and hope for the future."

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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