Never Forgotten

Seacoast Observes Memorial Day

By Liz Premo

Alantic News, Thursday, June 3, 2004

WE SALUTE YOU -- Seacoast area towns held Memorial Day observances this week, remembering those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice in preserving America's rights and freedoms. (Top) The day's events started out with a ceremony at Hampton Beach, with guest speakers and the National Anthem sung by Brenda Shepard; (Middle) an honorary gun salute and the playing of "Taps" followed a wreath laying ceremony; (Bottom) local Veterans salute while paying tribute to those who have gone on before them. (Shown in foreground is Dan Nersesian with hand salute.)
[Atlantic News Photos by Liz Premo]

HAMPTON — A number of local towns held their Memorial Day ceremonies on Monday of this week, under picture-perfect skies in weather that was equally perfect for the annual observances.

In the Seacoast area, the day's events began at 8 a.m. with exercises held at the New Hampshire Marine Memorial ("The Lady" statue). A good-sized crowd, which included a number of Veterans, gathered on both sides of Route 1A North to take part in the ceremony.

The event started off with an introduction by Hamptons American Legion Post #35 Commander Ralph Fatello, who introduced Pastor J.D. Minerella, who offered opening prayers, and Winnacunnet High School student Brenda Shepard, who sang the National Anthem.

Fatello reminded those present that of the 16 million Veterans who fought in World War II, there are only four million left. Two members of what is traditionally called the "Greatest Generation" — brothers Don and Alan Bishop — served as Marines in the South Pacific theater in WWII in locales that included Guadalcanal and Okinawa. The pair were given a generous round of applause by the crowd when Fatello introduced them.

After offering a humorous Marine Corps definition of the term "grunt," the Bishops turned the microphone over to Hampton Veteran Jerry McConnell, who served with the brothers "in miserable conditions" in Guadalcanal. He and Don were in the same company while they were stationed there, and according to McConnell, "If you ever have to go into combat, hope and pray there is a Don Bishop there with you."

Also speaking at Monday's ceremonies was Hampton resident Lt. Col. Tim Bailey, a recent military medal recipient. Reminding his listeners that those currently in the Armed Forces are "all volunteers serving during tumultuous times," he related the story of a soldier name Corporal Jason Dunham of New York, a Marine who requested that his enlistment be extended so that he could stay with his squad in Iraq.

While in Iraq this past April, Cpl. Dunham ultimately sacrificed his own life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers, throwing his body over — and taking the full blast of — a live grenade that had moments before been in the enemy's possession. The brave Marine died eight days after the incident. Lt. Col. Bailey called Dunham's actions "beyond the call of duty."

"We honor those who sacrificed their future so that we might have a future," Lt. Col. Bailey said. "We honor them today and we will never forget them."

The beach ceremony wrapped up with the laying of a memorial wreath and the playing of "Taps" by Hampton Academy students Jade Brewer and Carleton Simpson, before participants departed for subsequent ceremonies held in Hampton Falls, North Hampton and Hampton. Each stop held its own special activity in addition to the standard exercises, with the community invited to attend a culminating Memorial Day picnic in North Hampton.

Local schools also held Memorial Day assemblies, including North Hampton School (last week) and Hampton Academy Junior High School (this week). Marston School, for instance, welcomed Congressman Jeb Bradley on the Friday before the holiday weekend. In what was referred to as possibly the best Memorial Day program the school has ever held, Marston students performed the National Anthem, recited poetry and prose, and played musical selections, including "God Bless America," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and "Taps."

A special presentation of "Friends for Life" Teddy Bears was made to representatives of the town's fire and police departments, and Hamptons American Legion Post #35 Commander Ralph Fatello reminded everyone that Memorial Day is "not about that hot dog you're about to eat, it's not about the auto sale you're going to go to, it's about the ultimate sacrifice" made by thought who fought for this country's freedom.

With local Veterans, town officials, school board members, Marston staff and almost 500 members of the student body listening, Rep. Bradley praised the students for their incredible enthusiasm, and encouraged them to "keep up those good deeds, be proud of who you are, and 'God Bless America'."

When the program came to its conclusion, the congressman joined his fellow guests in a receiving line, greeting each and every student and praising them for a job well done — an _expression of appreciation that would be equally appropriate when offered to any US Veteran on this annual observance of Memorial Day.