Remembering 'Heroes Among Heroes'
By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, June 2, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]
HAMPTON -- Hampton area residents took time during this year's Memorial Day events to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country.From school assemblies, to organized parades, to solemn ceremonies, the true purpose of the holiday quietly yet powerfully echoed from one end of the Seacoast to the other.
Organized by Hamptons American Legion Post #35, a series of well-attended Memorial Day exercises included patriotic music, color guards, a multi-rifle salute to the dead, the playing of "Taps," the laying of memorial wreaths, acknowledgment of local Veterans in attendance, and comments offered by Post #35 Commander, Ralph Fatello.
"We understand that on Memorial Day we reflect on the ideals and values that our fallen heroes stood for and died defending," Fatello told the crowds that gathered for ceremonies held at Hampton Beach, Hampton Falls, North Hampton and Hampton. "We are reminded that they died, so that we could live and continue to cherish the things they loved — God, country and family. Every year we pledge ourselves anew, to never forget their sacrifices, to remind others of this most sacred day, and to simply remember."
The heartache of losing a loved one in service to this country was made all the more tangible for those who came to hear Gold Star Mother Natalie Healy address the public during the four scheduled ceremonies.
Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase "Home of the Free Thanks to the Brave," Healy spoke with heartfelt words that generated more than a few tears to be shed that morning.
"My son Danny was one of those warriors that did not make it home," said Healy, whose last correspondence with her son was via an e-mail he sent on May 29, 2005. "He was gone a month later."
Daniel Healy was part of a Navy SEAL team onboard a Ch47 Chinook helicopter that was shot down while en route to save four other members of the same team. Everyone on the chopper perished; only one of the four SEALS on the ground survived.
"The news stunned all of us," said Healy. "We all thought Danny was ten feet tall and bullet-proof."
Healy told the countless number of those attending the day's ceremonies that "Memorial Day has a face and a soul for us." She emphasized her son's "legacy of love for his family, his children and his country," calling it "a legacy that any [family] can be proud of."
In laying down their lives for their country, explained Healy, brave American patriots such as her son make it possible for the public "to gather and remember the sacrifices that he and others made."
"We reap the benefits of living in a free democratic society because of them," she said.
These sacrifices were also brought to light at a Memorial Day assembly held at Hampton Academy and organized by retiring music teacher, Sheila Nudd. With honored guests, students and staff in attendance, the assembly was dedicated to "remembering and honoring our own" — those HA students who had grown up, joined the military and lost their lives for freedom's sake.
One by one, 13 student speakers read the biographies of Hampton Academy Gold Star Heroes: Richard Raymond, Lincoln Akerman, Roland Gray, Neil Underwood, Norman Dearborn, Harry Parr, Edward Tobey, Robert Lord, Richard Blake, Robert White, Murray Smith, Bruce Brown and Desiree Loy. A special "Gold Star Hymn" — opening with the words "From these very halls they came" — celebrated these "men and women strong and true" who "answered their country's call" and "made the final sacrifice."
"All we can do is remember them, and we'll never, ever forget any of [them]," said Post #35 Commander Ralph Fatello during his remarks to those gathered in the school's Eastman Gym.
"If we ignore them, if we forget their contributions, their faces, their names, they lose their lives again. That is not right," said Nudd. "Young friends, please remember. Remember. Remember."
The third, fourth and fifth graders at Marston School also honored Memorial Day with a patriotic assembly attended by a number of local Veterans. A color guard composed of both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts presented the colors and saluted during the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem.
The event was punctuated by special musical presentations by students (including "America the Beautiful," "Amazing Grace" and "Taps," as well as comments from Legion Commander Fatello.
"Men and women lost their lives so that we could do this today," he told Marston students, who had greeted their honored guests with a thunderous standing ovation as they entered the gymnasium where the assembly was held.
Various other Memorial Day events took place throughout the Seacoast area — a school assembly in North Hampton , services in Seabrook, parades in Exeter, Stratham and Portsmouth — each one an urgent reminder to always remember, and never forget, those heroes who served their country, as well as those "heroes among heroes" who gave their lives for America's freedom.