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WRHS honors those who serve with flag from Iraq

June 01, 2011
TILTON — Students at Winnisquam Regional High School paused last Thursday morning for a moment of remembrance and respect for Armed Services members who died in service to the country.

Outside the school, members of Social Studies classes and the new History Club gathered around a World War II monument with Army National Guard member Capt. Peter Cartmell, who has served during two tours of duty in Iraq, both in 2005 and again in 2009-2010.

The flag he presented to the school district on May 26 had actually been flown over Iraq in a helicopter from his unit as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Under the command of pilot Junker Dustoff, the stars and stripes Cartmell presented to the school had seen 11.7 hours of combat time from Dec. 2-15 in 2009, including a Medevac mission to transport wounded Special Forces personnel.

"We've flown a number of these flags during our tour of duty, and hold onto them to bring back for places of significance that want to display them. We were happy we could bring one here to Winnisquam High School," he said.

WRHS social studies teacher Denise Lessard said the school's Facilities Committee recognized they were in need of a new flag earlier in the year, and heard flags from the war were available through the Concord Guard unit. School officials contacted the commander, and were pleased the National Guard could deliver a new flag to the school in time to honor fallen soldiers.

Lessard said it was a perfect way to commemorate Memorial Day, in a manner which she felt should be a "simple but solemn remembrance ceremony."

Joining Cartmell for the presentation was his sixth grade son Matt, who held the flag aloft with WRHS student Pat Sanborn as "Taps" played on the speaker the system across the campus. Lessard then read a short history on the origin of Memorial Day and the tradition of the bugle play at solemn ceremonies and burials for those who served the nation.

" 'Taps' means 'Put out the lights, go to sleep,'" she explained to the gathering.

The flag delivered to WRHS bears an embroidered inscription along the edge, acknowledging that it was donated by the Concord Medevac unit. Cartmell was joined in the laying of two wreaths before the memorial monument at WRHS by teacher Dave Rogacki, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War. Rogacki served in the United States Army Signal Corps from 1968 until 1971.

Cartmell said he has been honored to serve his country, assisting wounded Coalition soldiers and occasionally some civilians in getting necessary medical treatment. When he and his fellow soldiers returned to Iraq for a second tour in 2009-2010, he said they was bolstered to see the changes which had occurred since 2005.

"It was quite a rewarding experience. On our first tour, we evacuated 4,000 patients; then in 2009, when we returned, things were winding down a bit to where we only evacuated 400 patients. That was a good sign on how well things are progressing," Cartmell said.

Cartmell said his unit is scheduled to return for yet another tour of duty next year, this time in Afghanistan. While not activated for overseas missions, they make themselves available to New Hampshire Fish and Game, assisting in up to a dozen rescue calls a year in the White Mountains and beyond.

"Whenever they need our assistance, they give us a call, and we're there," Cartmell said.

Also participating in the ceremony were Felicia Demers and Daley Buckwell of the History Club, who broadcast the readings for those who remained in their classrooms for the presentation.

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