Hundreds Gather in Hampton to Honor the Fallen
By Gretyl MacAlaster, Democrat Staff Writer
Foster's Daily Democrat, Wednesday, September 12, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Foster's Daily Democrat]
[John Huff/Staff photographer]
HAMPTON -- Denise Gionet of Pelham came to Hampton to remember her son, killed by an IED while serving in Iraq in June 2006.
Tears welled in her eyes as she viewed his name on the Global War on Terrorism Memorial created and maintained by American Legion Post 35.
Her 19-year old daughter left for boot camp Sept. 4 and it is "difficult," she said wearing a USA jacket and dabbing tears from her eyes as she participated in the Sept. 11 memorial service in Hampton Tuesday night. A section of High Street in front of the Legion was shut down to traffic as over 500 people gathered to honor New Hampshire's fallen soldiers.
Her son, Army Sgt. Daniel Gionet, is one of 29 names representing the New Hampshire servicemen and women who have lost their lives since the Global War on Terrorism began with the fall of the towers six years ago.
The memorial was unveiled last year on Sept. 11 with room left to add names of each New Hampshire soldier killed each year until the war is over.
This year, six names were added to the memorial.
Cpl. Nicholas Arvantis, 22, was one of those names.
"He was very patriotic. After 9-11, he just felt that•he needed to go and serve his country," Leonard Dill of Salem, Arvantis's grandfather said, his voice shaking as he looked away. "He was a fine young man. We are very proud of him."
Arvantis was killed the day after his birthday while serving with the 82nd Airborne.
"We have to thank American Legion Post 35 for this great tribute to all of the people who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country and for the state of New Hampshire," Dill said.
Gov. John Lynch and former Sen. Jeb Bradley made remarks inside the legion hall as storm clouds threatened outside.
"As Governor, I have had the opportunity to meet many New Hampshire men and women serving right now. When I look in their eyes, I see pride," Lynch said. He added that he has also attended many funerals for soldiers and always regrets that he didn't have a chance to get to know those soldiers.
Names added to the memorial this year include Lance Cpl. Ryan T. McCaughn, of Manchester, Cpl. Matthew J. Stanley, of Wolfeboro, Spc. Toby R. Olsen, of Manchester, Spc. Justin A. Rollins, of Newport, and Capt. Jonathan D. Grassbaugh, of East Hampstead.
U.S Marine Sgt. Nick Cyr told the crowd inside the legion about his two combat tours, including one in Iraq that involved the rescue mission of Army PFC Jessica Lynch and a second in the steep hills of Afghanistan on the border of Pakistan.
Cyr now serves as a New Hampshire state trooper alongside a former New York City policemen who lost many friends at the World Trade Center.
"I lost a good friend, Jan. 28, 2005. He was the kind of guy that if you were thirsty, he would give you his last sip of water," Cyr said. "The men and women who serve overseas are heroes."
American Legion Post Commander Ralph Fatello proposed an idea for a memorial to legion members after visiting the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. He said he did not want to wait 20 or 30 years for a memorial to be created and felt New Hampshire's fallen soldiers needed to be honored now and each year until the end of the war.
"Every one of the family's are so thankful, so appreciative we are not going to forget," Fatello said. "As Veterans, it is our responsibility and our duty to help remember and help educate the public to remember."
Contingencies from all branches of the military, the Boy Scouts, police, fire and ROTC from Winnacunnet High School were represented during the hour-long ceremony.
The national anthem was sung by 11-year-old Hampton Academy student Elaine Weatherby who said she was "honored" to participate in a ceremony honoring the soldiers.
"There is so much we can do just being a support system," said Connie Holman, of Hampton, whose husband is the Chaplain of the legion Post 35.
Members of American Legion Post 35 also serve as Pease greeters for troops arriving from and departing for Iraq.
The 6-foot-tall granite monument designed by Roger Syphers stands outside American Legion Post 35 at 69 High Street.