By Liz Premo
Thursday, May 31, 2001
HAMPTON -- In an emotional Memorial Day ceremony held last Friday morning in the school's Eastman Gym, an touching tribute was paid when Hampton Academy Junior High School honored 11 of its former students who died in service to their country -- 10 during war time, and one during peace time.
A large contingent of local veterans joined HAJH students and staff in remembering those school alumni who "answered [the] call to service" and gave the supreme sacrifice "so our country and government can be a true democracy. The 11 who were singularly honored were Richard Raymond, Lincoln Akerman, Roland Gray, Edward Tobey, Harry Parr, Neil Underwood, Norman Dearborn, Robert Gordon Lord, Richard Blake, Robert White, and Desiree Loy.
The event began with welcoming comments by music teacher Sheila Nudd, who once again organized the annual event along with the HAJH student council. Her remarks were followed by the presentation of colors by the Winnacunnet High School MJROTC color guard, with the flag pledge led by HAJH Assistant Principal Stan Shupe. American Legion Chaplain John MacInnis offered the invocation, then those present joined students Alison Cusano and Maria Martinez in singing "America the Beautiful." A history of Memorial Day -- once known as Remembrance Day or Decoration Day -- was read by Amanda Steren after comments given by HAJH Principal Kevin Moran. HAJH student Rachel Green then read President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
What followed these opening exercises was a poignant memorial to the 11 Hampton Academy alumni who, along with more than 200 other former students, went into the armed forces to serve their country. These 11 who gave their lives -- their images projected in turn on a screen set up on the stage -- were each memorialized in short biographies read by HAJH students Amy Carlino, Cara DelloRusso, Miranda Carroll, Saige Kaufman, Stephanie Powell, Kaitlin O'Reilly, Lauren Analdo, Jessica Pleshaw, Andrea Vandersal, Devon Brown and Lauren DelloRusso.
The biographies served as a reminder to HAJH students that these people had once walked the same halls as they currently do. The brief stories offered incredibly personal glimpses into the lives and deaths of their subjects and the call of duty to their country which they answered. Remembrances of them all evoked expressions of emotion in more than once instance -- some laughter, some tears, and plenty of reflection and heartfelt gratitude for their sacrifice.
The ceremony closed with additional comments by Nudd, who introduced the veterans who were present in the audience. A benediction was offered by MacInnis, and there was an Honor Roll reading of the names of those who served and died in the Civil War, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and in peace time.
"Their lives are gifts to us, their deaths are unfulfilled promises," said Nudd. Taps, with an echo, was played, and the colors were retired while everyone stood at attention.
Following the ceremony, several of the honored guests expressed their appreciation for the observance. "What a wonderful job you did," Norma St. Germaine told Sheila Nudd. "The young people have to be told of this."
"It was very touching," said Jerry McConnell, who served in the United States Marine Corps. "A few tears welled up," he admitted. "[The ceremony] brought back a lot of memories of old friends."
Hampton School Board Chairman Chris Singleton also had high praise for an event which he said "is a great reminder [for our kids] of people who have scarified (their lives] for our country." Former Marine Ralph Fatello noted he used to get upset with people who used the Memorial Day observance as a reason to have barbecues and purchase automobiles. He strongly felt that "people didn't sacrifice their lives for cookouts and car sales." After a good deal of thought, however, Fatello said it dawned on him that such events were indeed appropriate ways to celebrate, because "that is the reason" those sacrifices were made -- "for freedom -- so that we can do [those things]!"