Seacoast Salutes Bravery, Heroism of Veterans

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By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, November 16, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

SEACOAST -- Seacoast area Veterans and their brethren - across the country, the globe and the decades - were honored at Veterans Day exercises conducted Sunday morning by members of Hamptons' American Legion Post #35.

At Hampton Beach, bright blue skies and surf-worthy whitecaps created a sparkling backdrop on what began as a seasonably chilly day.

The 8 a.m. beach ceremony was the first of four that morning. Others would be conducted on the hour in Hampton Falls, North Hampton, and Hampton in front of the Legion Hall on High Street.

Post #35 Commander Ralph Fatello greeted Veterans and the public to the ceremonies, each of which included invocations, the singing of the National Anthem, and a gun salute by the Post's rifle squad.

Color guards, including those from Post #35, Hampton Boy Scout Troop 177 and Winnacunnet High School's MCJROTC program, added to the dignity, honor and respect of the proceedings.

The guest speaker for the day's exercises was WHS Principal Randy Zito, a US Army combat Veteran (Command Sgt. Major) who served in Vietnam.

Ever the dedicated educator, Zito opened his remarks with a small history lesson about Veterans Day and how it came to be known as such.

"I promise there will be no quiz at the end of this presentation," he said lightheartedly.

Zito went on to tell about his own father's service to his country. A 90-year-old World War II Army Veteran, the elder Zito fought the Germans while at the same time caring for the wounded and dying while a prisoner in Algeria. In fact, Zito's father - who "refused to carry a weapon" - was "busy trying to save the life of a German officer when he was shot" by another German with a machine gun.

Now residing in Florida, Zito's father picnics every Wednesday with a group of good friends that includes two other WWII Veterans - who just so happened to fight for Germany during the war.

"My father's 'Band of Brothers,'" Zito commented, "is an unlikely bunch of soldiers who remember war and love peace."

While America honors its Veterans both living and lost in battle, Zito emphasized how "we should never forget our prisoners of war and those missing in action." He also noted that National Guardsmen and Reservists - civilians-turned-soldiers - "should be honored no less."

Regarding the United States' current involvement in the Global War on Terror, Zito said, "As I see it, we can either stand by or fight these extremists who want to end our Western influence in the Middle East. They clearly stand in the way of democracy and peace."

Zito, whose son is in the middle of a six-month deployment in the War on Terror, noted "We should never turn our backs on nations who suffer under these enemies; I believe that hundreds of thousands shall die by the hands of these terrorists if we do not support the good people of Iraq and Afghanistan."

He added, "We should not turn our backs, nor should we run as we did in Vietnam."

As he came to the final words of his speech, Zito recalled the heroism and valor of Lt. Michael Murphy, one of the Navy SEALS who lost their lives during a mission in Afghanistan and whose story is told in Marcus Luttrell's book, "Lone Survivor." Lt. Murphy, who was recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously, died wearing a NYCFD patch on his uniform. At the ceremony, said Zito, "Murphy's father told a reporter that his son 'knew what he was fighting for.'"

Before the ceremony at the beach closed with the playing of "Taps," Zito commented, "On days like today, I am reminded that the life I enjoy with my friends and family could only be because of the bravery and heroism of our war Veterans. I salute every one of you here with me today."

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