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Veterans Home 'the right place to be' on Memorial Day



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Katrina Swett, candidate for the U.S. Senate, spent time talking with veterans like Roland Guay following a Memorial Day ceremony at the N.H. Veteran’s Home on Monday. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
June 02, 2010
TILTON — Residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home were joined by family, friends and special guests as they gathered in their Town Hall to honor deceased soldiers at the annual Memorial Day ceremonies on Monday.

State Representative Patrick Garrity delivered the Memorial Day Address as a veteran himself and the chair of the State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee. Garrity said he was especially grateful for NHVH where his father, a veteran of WWII and Korea, was cared for up until his death a little over a year ago. Memorial Day he said was important, not only to recognize the service of veterans but also to respect their commitments and sacrifices.

"It is our sacred duty to keep memories of our patriots fresh in our minds," he said.

Peg Hodes read on a letter from her husband, U.S. Representative Paul Hodes who was attending a medal ceremony for a veteran elsewhere in the state. In Hodes' address he said that since the beginning of our nation citizens have answered the call to protect and serve.

"They inspire us and renew our faith in the country we so love," she read.

Letters were also read from senators Jeanne Shaheen and Sen. Judd Gregg, U.S. Representative Carol Shea-Porter and Gov. John Lynch, who could not attend but sent their reflections on those who have served the nation and made the ultimate sacrifice. In Lynch's Memorial Day proclamation he wrote that with recent deaths of New Hampshire soldiers in the Middle East citizens of the state are painfully aware of the sacrifices made by the military. He encouraged all residents to display the colors of the nation and reflect on the meaning of the day.

Boy Scout and Tilton School student Cameron Wood was also asked to present a Memorial Day message.

"It's a very brave and loyal person who is willing to leave their family and fight for our country without hesitation," he said.

Wood sees that commitment of the servicemen and the support of the families left behind through his friend whose father is serving in Iraq. Memorial Day to him meant taking time to remember those who have sacrificed their lives in a war so that he could be free to become whatever he would like to be.

Wood also announced that his upcoming Eagle Scout project will be the construction of two wheelchair accessible picnic tables and wooden flower boxes for residents of the veterans home to enjoy.

Director of Operation for NHVH Garry Naughton read the names of nearly 75 veterans who had passed away at the facility in the past year.

Commandant Barry Conway said everything that could be said about Memorial Day had already been said. He asked instead to take a moment to talk about another way of honoring fallen heroes, by caring for their families and fellow soldiers left behind.

"Memorial Day is to honor soldiers we have lost. But, for the other 364 days we need to reach out to families who are grieving and those who did come home but aren't able to live as they should due to illness or stress," Conway said.

He asked that people hold out a hand to these soldiers as they may be too afraid or too ill to ask for the help they need. He quoted the motto of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which says people can "Honor the dead by serving the living."

Katrina Swett, a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in N.H. did not speak publicly but took time out to personally thank veterans who were at the ceremony. Swett said she feels she owes a lot to them for their service. Her parents were in Hungary during WWII and she felt that without the intervention of the U.S. and allied soldiers they might not have survived to immigrate to this country.

"I'm just honored to be here among them today," she said.

A family from Sanbornton felt honored to be amongst the veterans for the day as well. Seven-year old Hannah Max, her six-year old sister Emily and three-year old sister Alicia came to NHVH with their parents Heather and John. They had no family or friends at the facility, they came for the ceremony and to spend time thanking the men and women who live there.

"It just felt like the right place to be today," said John.

The Honor Guard from the Whiteman-Davidson American Legion Post 49 were on hand to lay a wreath at a monument on the grounds. More than 100 people came outside to watch in silence as the guard fired a salute overhead and "Taps" rang out across the lawn to conclude the ceremony.

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