By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, November 17, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]
HAMPTON -- Hamptons' American Legion Post #35 conducted annual Veterans' Day exercises last Saturday morning, following their standard program of events held at Hampton Beach, Hampton Falls and North Hampton.
At each stop, Veterans past and present were celebrated and honored with patriotic music, speeches and salutes. Legion Commander Ralph Fatello invited Hampton Fire Chief, Hank Lipe to serve as guest speaker, while Post Chaplain John Holman offered the invocation and benediction. The WHS MCJrROTC Color Guard, looking sharp in dress uniform, presented the colors. This year's uptown observances, though, were held outside Post #35's Legion Hall, rather than the traditional spot further east at High Street Cemetery.
The occasion was bittersweet: To gladly and gratefully honor all Veterans for their dedicated service to their country, and to remember two from New Hampshire who had lost their lives since 9-11-01 in the Global War on Terror.
Their names - Jesse S. Conger, SPC, US Army and Peter J. Sora, Jr., L/CPL, US Marine Corps - were the latest to be etched on the granite monument which Post #35 had dedicated on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks against America.
Family members of the fallen joined about 100 other onlookers at the ceremony, which included the playing of the National Anthem on a bugle by Mark Weatherby and the laying of a memorial wreath in front of the GWOT monument.
"On behalf of American Legion Post #35, you have our solemn pledge and promise that we will never forget your sons' sacrifice and your sacrifices," Fatello told the families.
During his remarks, Chief Lipe, an Air Force/ Coast Guard Reserves Veteran, emphasized the value of Veteran-based leadership. He recalled his father's military career in the US Army and how it impacted his own life of service to country and community.
"Have the Veterans in your family influenced your life?" asked the Chief. "I hope so."
Lipe went on to say how his father, Henry Lipe Sr., "provided leadership and direction," doing things "the Veteran way" while setting an example for his namesake, who carried this brand of leadership to his eventual duties as an emergency responder.
"I feel very privileged and proud," said Lipe.
Before the crowd was dismissed for a time of refreshments and fellowship, they were reminded to offer "a big thank-you to all Veterans, especially those in harm's way."
Choruses of thanks were in abundance earlier in the week during Veterans Day assemblies held at local schools, including Marston and Hampton Academy.
At the former, students welcomed a contingent of local Veterans with an enthusiastic standing ovation. Clad in T-shirts (in both red and blue) with their school represented in white, the students applauded their special guests as they entered the gymnasium.
There, the guests of honor heard a "Reading of Veterans Day," preceded by the National Anthem sung by student Elaine Weatherby, and followed by "America the Beautiful" performed by Corina Chao.
Comments were offered by Cmdr. Fatello, who reminded the kids they were "on America's Team" and led them in the traditional chant of "USA! USA! USA!"
An Armed Forces Medley came next, with Veterans rising to their feet as their respective military songs were played and sung. Additional numbers performed at the assembly included "America" by Alyssa Perzanoski and "You're a Grand Old Flag," with the entire school joining in.
Prior to the conclusion of the assembly guest Veteran speaker, Ensign Paul Silva told his listeners about life as an active officer with the US Merchant Marine and as a reserve officer in the US Navy.
A graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy, Ensign Silva has served on five different ocean-going ships, delivering supplies to Navy bases in Eastern Asia and the Indian Ocean; delivering military equipment to countries in Northern Europe and throughout the Mediterranean; aiding humanitarian relief efforts in Eastern Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti), and transporting oil products to the US via the Gulf of Mexico. The Merchant Marine, added Silva, "has played a vital role along with the branches of the armed forces in protecting our country, by delivering troops and supplies to the war zones and providing relief efforts in many foreign countries."
Ensign Silva gave a brief overview of Veterans Day and why it is celebrated, noting "It is because of these men and women that our country has been able to be as successful as we are today."
In closing, Silva urged students to thank anyone they know "who is serving or has served our country in the past in one of the branches of the armed forces or merchant marine and for the security they have provided you with today."
There was an abundance of student involvement during the Veterans Day assembly at Hampton Academy, with a number of eighth graders approaching the podium to share their own personal stories of Veterans in their lives. During one presentation, the letters in the word "VETERANS" were used as verbal acrostics puzzle: "V" stood for Valor; "E" for Enthusiasm, "T," Trust; "E," Envision; "R," Righteousness; "A," Always Ready; "N," Nation; and "S" for Salute. "We as a nation salute you," the visiting Veterans were told.
Following the student presentations, HA Principal, Fred Muscara acknowledged all Veterans present, including those on his staff. During his own remarks, Post #35 Cmdr. Fatello encouraged the students to make it a family tradition to thank the Veterans in their lives, prior to taking the dialogue a step further.
"Thank them," urged Fatello, "then ask them about their service. Talk about it."
Hampton Academy's honoring of Veterans did not end with the conclusion of the assembly. A current project-in-progress will see students baking cookies, eventually shipping them to American military personnel serving their country in the Middle East.