By Maureen Cummings
Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 27, 2003
HAMPTON - The Memorial Day observance for students at Hampton Academy Junior High School on May 23 was one charged with patriotism and history.
HAJH principal Justin Coggeshall opened the ceremony by explaining it was a way to pay tribute to the men and women who lived in Hampton and attended the junior high school.
"They are sons, daughters, fathers and brothers. The gift they gave is liberty and freedom, and we're here to understand" their sacrifice.
Coggeshall added that the students were there to learn about real heroes, which are defined as those possessing courage and nobility.
"They're not heroes in the pop-culture sense. They all died before the age of 30. Some died before the age of 20. They all answered the call to serve something greater than themselves."
All remained standing in the packed Eastman Gymnasium for the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Emily Jefferson, and the Star Spangled Banner, led by Emily Demchyk and Alexis Raymond on the piano.
The history of Memorial Day, which began with flowers being placed on the graves of loved ones beginning at the end of the Civil War, was also explained .
Guest speaker Ralph Fatello, commander of the Hampton American Legion Post #35, quickly drew in the young audience by speaking about his own experience as a junior high student.
"Looking at 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds, it's probably hard for you to relate to us. It's not hard for us to relate to you, because we've been there," the Vietnam veteran said.
Fatello said he was born five years after World War II and before the Korean Conflict, so as a youngster, he didn't observe any real world conflicts. At the time, he thought of the things a typical junior high student thinks about, such as girls, sports and the next dance.
He began to think about global conflict when the Vietnam conflict started. A friend, Brian Hubis, was a talented athlete as well as one of the funniest and brightest young men around.
Later, Hubis was killed in Vietnam.
"When I found out Brian was dead, I couldn't believe it. No one could kill Brian. But Brian was gone."
Fatello went on to recall that in the 60s, the term "homey" - popularly used by today's teenagers - referred to a serviceman whose hometown was within 50 miles of your own. Fatello, a Beverly, Mass., native met a Boston man named Mike Guezzetti during his flight to Vietnam.
The two also spent time in boot camp together, getting to know each other better. Guezzetti had promised Fatello a tour of Boston clubs when the two came back to the states, and in return, Fatello promised he would take his new friend surfing at Hampton Beach.
After only a week in action, someone sent word to Fatello that his friend had been killed.
Fatello concluded by saying today's junior high students can relate more to war, by some of the recent events they've witnessed, such as Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq.
In a subsequent interview, Fatello elaborated.
"They know Americans died in the last few months, and the last few years. They know what Memorial Day is all about, because they've witnessed it. When one family here is watching American Idol, 300 families are grieving (over) husbands and fathers that were killed. That's a reality."
He also mentioned that, just in the past week, four American military men lost their lives in a helicopter crash.
"It's not too far removed for these students to think of other young people who are serving overseas right now. These 13- or 14-year-olds could see themselves in that position. It's not out of their grasp," said Fatello.
Fatello, who has related his experience to many adults, wanted to speak specifically to kids about Memorial Day. "When you strip away the suit and all that, I wanted to let them know that we were kids once and we understand how they feel."
He added that "the world today, as we know it, is not as stable as it was when I was a kid. As long as there's trouble in the world, Americans will go and help people. Some of these kids, who heard this, could be liberating someone in the future. We're the police department of the world."
Also as part of the ceremony, HAJH students read the names from Hampton's Civil War, World War II, Korean conflict and Vietnam conflict Honor Roll.
The following names were listed on Hampton's Civil War Honor Roll: Charles Henry Davis, David T. Philbrick, Charles W. Nudd, James Fair, George Berry Wingate, George Dearborn, Jonathan Nudd Dow, John Walter Moore, Everett Dearborn Blake, John Dow Lamprey, Daniel Godfrey, Theodore Fisher, Edward Shaw Perkins, John Henry Elkins, John Dole Palmer, David W. Perkins (brother of Edward), Joseph Eldridge Palmer, Morris Hobbs Godfrey, Simon Nudd Lamprey, Jeremiah Batchelder, George Perkins, Melbern Marston, David Godfrey (brother of Daniel), John Franklin Hobbs, Samuel Joseph Gillespie, Hale Dearborn and Samuel Page, who died of malaria shortly after the war.
The World War II Honor Roll included the names of Lincoln Akerman, Roland M. Gray, Richard T. Raymond, Neal R. Underwood, Edward W. Tobey, Norman M. Dearborn, John A. Cuss, Robert Gordon Lord, Robert W. Naves, Richard W. Blake and Robert K. White.
The Korean conflict Honor Roll named Robert Hedman, confirmed dead in 1954, who now has a street named after him.
The Vietnam conflict Honor Roll named Bruce Brown, Mark Brown, John Falcone, Steven Philbrick, Robert Shaw, Murrey Smith and James St. Cyr.