A Fitting Tribute Set In Stone
By Liz Premo Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, September 15, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]
[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]
HAMPTON -- A bouquet of fresh red roses. A photo memorial card lovingly tucked into a ceremonial wreath of patriotic colors. Silent tears, concealed behind dark lenses, dabbed away by damp, crumpled tissues.
A lingering touch of warm fingertips brushed across a name etched in cold, smooth granite. Comforting hugs and heartfelt handshakes shared between both friends old and new, brought together for a common purpose: To Remember. Remember. Remember.
These and many other images will forever leave an indelible impression upon those who attended Monday night's dedication of a special monument memorializing those New Hampshire servicemen who since 9-11 made the supreme sacrifice while fighting in the Global War on Terrorism.
Played out against the backdrop of a setting sun upon a blocked-off stretch of High Street in Hampton, the dedication was the culmination of months of behind-the-scenes effort by scores of individuals, organizations and businesses.
Families and friends of the fallen were among the estimated 400 or more people who had gathered in front of the Legion Hall to witness the unveiling of the granite monument, with 23 names carved into its smooth surface and, if heartbreakingly necessary, room for still more.
Organized by Post #35 Commander Ralph Fatello and a battalion of fellow Legionnaires, volunteers and supporters, the ceremony featured comments from Governor John Lynch, Senator Judd Gregg, local Veterans and other guest speakers. The "Keepers of the Stone" -- Post #35's John Barvenik and George Masten -- pulled the black shroud off that stone to which they had been entrusted.
There was the singing of the National Anthem, a prayerful invocation, a ceremonial rifle salute, the placing of a memorial wreath in front of the stone, and the playing of "Taps." A solemn roll call of the deceased was punctuated by the clear clanging of a fire bell after each name was read:
William Tracy, Andrew Stevens, Peter Heuchling, Robert Rooney, Randy Rosenberg, Jeremiah Holmes, Richard Ferguson, Jeremy Regnier, Alan Burgess, Adam Brooks, Timothy Gibson, Angelo Lozada, Matthew Coutu, Daniel Healy, Matthew Bertolino, Donald Smith, George Roehl, Nicholas Cournoyer, Robert Moscillo, Douglas DiCenzo, Daniel Gionet, Russell Durgin and Matthew Schneider.
And throughout it all, a sense of pride, patriotism and honor mingled bittersweet with shared memories and remembrances of New Hampshire's own sons, who bravely fought and died for their country's freedom over the past five years.
It was fitting, then, that the ceremony should take place on the anniversary of -- as one post-9-11 anthem calls it -- the day the world stopped turning. And it came with a promise that those so honored -- and any that followed -- would never be forgotten, and always remembered, every September 11.
It was a chance meeting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC that helped set things in motion for Monday evening's ceremony. In the nation's capitol to attend a memorial service for his late father-in-law back in January, Fatello and his son Max had visited the memorials commemorating World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War.
Standing on those steps, Fatello struck up a conversation with a fellow Vietnam Veteran who was in DC visiting his own son, a patient at Walter Reed Army Hospital recuperating from wounds he had suffered while in combat in Iraq.
Looking out over the Mall where the war monuments are situated, the two men agreed that one day in the future, a memorial honoring those who served the United States in the Global War on Terror "would be as significant as any as you see here."
Returning home to Hampton, Fatello connected with his fellow Post #35 members about placing a 9-11 memorial on the grounds of the Legion Hall building. While initial discussions focused on solely honoring those from the Seacoast area who died in the GWOT, the thought evolved to, "Why don't we just do it for all of them [from NH]?"
Determined not to make it "a 20-, 30-, 40-year wait" for this group of American heroes, says Fatello, "it became like a mission to get this done now." And indeed, it was accomplished with the all-around "groundswell of support" the project received from the start.
Preparation of the grounds, the actual landscaping, and the monument itself (coordinated by Veteran Roger Syphers) were designed and completed as August turned into September. Arrangements were soon made to contact and invite the families of the fallen as well as the other distinguished guests who were in attendance at the ceremony.
Addressing the crowd, Sen. Gregg called the monument a "truly appropriate" memorial dedicated to "the people who are willing to stand on the front lines." He also stressed the need to "continue to defend ourselves with all the energy we have" against America's enemies.
Gov. Lynch, who had issued a proclamation making September 11 "a day of remembrance all across the state of New Hampshire," called those whose names are inscribed on the stone "American heroes, patriots who believed in our nation, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect us. It is a fitting tribute to these men."
The governor also addressed the Veterans in attendance, acknowledging "how much we appreciate all you have done for all of us here in New Hampshire." "American Veterans understand that freedom is not free," said State Legion Department Commander, Earl Beale during his comments. "This is a debt that can never be repaid. I salute you."
"For those of us in uniform, we live September 11 every day," said Col. Tim Bailey, who has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He noted that those who serve in the American military volunteer to do so because "they believe in something bigger than themselves."
Acknowledging New Hampshire's fallen, Bailey added, "We will never forget them, we will never forget their sacrifice. Rest in peace, my brothers."
"They come from every walk of life," commented Major Robert Blonigan, an Iraq Veteran invited to speak. "They represent the best and brightest --- patriotic to the core. The brave souls we commemorate today have proven their worth."
The ceremony drew to its conclusion and the names of those brave souls were read. And with the reading came a solemn, sincere pledge addressed to the people who were left behind when their brave and courageous sons, husbands, brothers, fathers and friends laid down their lives in the name of freedom:
"You have our word, and our promise, that we will never, ever forget the sacrifice of your loved ones."
[Atlantic News Photos by Liz Premo]