Hampton Region Observes Memorial Day

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Hampton Region Commemorates Memorial Day with Tributes, Gatherings

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, May 31, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Hampton native, Master Sergeant Gary Smith of the U.S. Air Force was the guest speaker at American Legion Post 35's Memorial Day observance on Hampton Beach Monday morning. (and also at the services at Hampton Falls, North Hampton and Hampton, through the rest of the morning.)
[Deb Cram Photo]

HAMPTON -- Ralph Fatello, commander of the American Legion Post No. 35, said the number of men and woman from the United States who have died in wars ranging from the Civil War to the current global war on terrorism is "staggering."

Since the Civil War, he said 1,263,957 Americans have died defending their country and another 38,000 are listed as missing in action.

"That is what this day is really all about," Fatello said. "The men and women who paid the price of freedom and blood. Today is the day we honor and remember them. "

Before the cook-outs and the parade through downtown Hampton, hundreds came out early Monday morning to Hampton Beach to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

Some came to pay their respects to loved ones. Other came to show respect for those they didn't even know.

The observance at The Lady of the Sea Marine Memorial — which serves a memorial for all of New Hampshire's sons and daughters lost or buried at sea during World War II — was just one of four Memorial Day observances held by Legion Post No. 35.

Each ceremony included the national anthem, color guards, a multi-rifle salute to the dead, the playing of taps and the laying of a memorial wreath.

This year's guest speaker was Master Sgt. Gary Smith, a 26-year veteran in the Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves.

Fatello said Smith knows first hand the price of sacrifice.

Smith, a Hampton native, is a direct descendent of a Civil War veteran who died of his wounds in the war. Smith's two grandfathers served in World War II, and his father, U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Maj. Murray Smith, was killed in Vietnam in 1967.

During the ceremony, Sgt. Smith, along with the Legion, members paid a special tribute to men and women who served in the Civil War, as part of commemorating the 150th anniversary of the start of the "War Between the States."

Smith said more than 625,000 American lives were lost in the battle between the north and south. The war's aftermath gave rise to Memorial Day.

"Shortly after the Civil War on a particular day in the month of May, the grave sites of these brave soldiers were adorned with flowers by woman and children," Smith.

That, he said, became an annual tradition known as Decoration Day, which has evolved to what is now Memorial Day.

"Your presence here today gives tribute to those patriots who laid down their lives so we may live in peace at home and abroad," Smith said.

Smith said the ceremony at the beach makes him think of his surfing friend, Joseph G. Somogy, who died of cancer at the age of 27.

"It reminds of a war hero who loved this Seacoast and whose soul was very much part of the ocean that you see before you."

Smith said Somogy served in Vietnam as an Army Ranger and was involved in some of the world's most dangerous covert operations.

During the war, Somogy was exposed to Agent Orange, which is believed to have caused his cancer.

Smith said it's important to remember and honor those who gave everything for freedom.

He closed by reading a letter addressed to the Seacoast written by Michael Glenn "Mike" Mullen, a U. S. Navy admiral who currently serves as the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanking the Seacoast for its support and for honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Monday's exercises began at the Marine Memorial at Hampton Beach, then moved to Hampton Falls, then North Hampton.

While in Hampton, the parade made a special stop in front of the Global War on Terrorism monument outside the Legion's hall at 69 High St. A memorial wreath was placed in front of the monument that lists the names of all veterans from New Hampshire who have lost their lives in the global war on terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.

After the final service of the morning, hundreds joined Legion members at Hampton Academy for a good old-fashioned cookout with hotdogs and live music.

Marine Mike McDonald salutes after laying a wreath on the Marine War Memorial at Sea in honor of the nation's dead during American Legion Post 35's Memorial Day observances on Hampton Beach Monday.
[Deb Cram photo]
People gather for the American Legion Post No. 35's Memorial Day observance and end the ceremony by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance Monday morning at Hampton Beach. [Deb Cram photo]
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