By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, November 15, 2005
[Photo by Jamie Cohen]
HAMPTON -- Reservists and National Guard troops have been serving the United States and dying for freedom since 1775, said Hampton's American Legion Post 35 Commander Ralph Fatello.
They have served in World War II, Vietnam, Korea, the Gulf War, and now in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Veterans Day 2005, Fatello wanted to take the time to honor them and their contributions.
Services on Friday morning were first held at the New Hampshire Marine Memorial at Hampton Beach, then at Weare's Common in Hampton Falls, followed by the North Hampton Public Library and then the High Street Cemetery in Hampton where a wreath was laid at the base of the flagpole in the "Memorial Plot."
"I know some reservists and National Guard troops who feel as if they are not really veterans," said Fatello. "That upsets me and my fellow veterans."
Fatello said 43 percent of the troops in Iraq are reservists and National Guard. They also represent 45 percent of the casualties.
"Some of these brave men and women live right here on the Seacoast," said Fatello. "Some have served overseas while others have served in the states. They are all veterans who took the same oath as every one of us."
Hampton police Lt. Rich Sawyer, who was this year's guest speaker, said he was one of those reservists who felt that he didn't deserve the status of being a veteran.
"I grew up in this town and I got to know a lot of veterans and I'm in awe of these people," said Sawyer. "Some of these people are the great Americans who served in time of war."
Sawyer recalled when he graduated from Parris Island as a Marine in 1984.
"I recall the sense of pride that I had and spotting my father (who was also a veteran) coming to congratulate me," said Sawyer. "In those days, everyone was issued a set of glasses that we called Clark Kent glasses. My father walked up and shook hands with the wrong recruit. It was a humorous moment, but he was very proud of me."
Sawyer said reservist and National Guard troops have answered the call of duty in every major conflict in the nation's history.
"Let us not forget, the fight for this nation's independence began with a group of citizens known as the minutemen," said Sawyer.
Sawyer said he was glad to see parents and their children in attendance. He also said he can't wait until his daughter Isabella, who turns 4 in December, asks him what is Veterans Day all about.
"I'm going to tell her that Veterans Day is a day set aside to honor the men and women who have served our armed forces to defend our nation," said Sawyer. "It's not an extra day off of school or work to go shopping."
In closing, Sawyer read an essay from an unknown author in the voice of the American Flag on why veterans sacrifice so much by serving.
"... The next time you pass by me, give me a wink or offer a glimmer of pride with a simple wave to let all the soldiers who served, so you can live free and I can fly free, will know that their sacrifice was not in vain," said Sawyer.