Ceremony Honors Ultimate Sacrifice

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union , Tuesday, September 11, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

George Marsten, sergeant-at-arms at American Legion Post 35 in Hampton, stands with the Global War on Terrorism Monument, which was full with names in 2007. The legion has since raised money and attached two granite wings to the monument to add names.One new name will be added this year.
[Rich Beauchese Photo]

HAMPTON -- American Legion Post 35 in the Hamptons will unveil the new art on the new stones today on the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Monument.

The dedication will take place today at 6 p.m. (Tuesday, Sept. 11) at the American Legion Post 35 Hall at 69 High St. in Hampton.

This unique monument is engraved with the names of all the veterans from the state of New Hampshire who have lost their lives in the war on terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, in the chronological order of their passing.

This is the first year since 2001 that the post has not had to add any new names.

This year's guest speakers include Gov. John Lynch, who has attended and spoken at every single observance since 2006.

Families of the fallen will be in attendance, as well as other notable public dignitaries from the state and local communities.

This year, Post 35 Commander Ralph Fatello said the American Legion plans to mark the occasion of not adding new names by honoring each name on the monument.

Local veterans will say a word about each one.

"We want the focus to be them," Fatello said.

Color guards from the Hampton Fire Department and Winnacunnet High School's Marine Corps Junior ROTC will be at the ceremony. Scout Troop 177 and the Seacoast Marine Corps League's Rifle Squad will also be on hand. The national anthem will be performed by local singer Elaine Weatherby. Taps will be performed by Mark Weatherby.

The public is invited to attend and refreshments will be served following the ceremony at the American Legion Post 35.

The first-of-its-kind monument was unveiled in 2006, on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

The original stone, which was also paid for through donations, features likenesses of the Purple Heart medal, which is awarded when a service member is wounded or killed in combat, and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, for service members deployed to places such as Afghanistan and Iraq after Sept. 11, 2001.

Fatello said the idea for the memorial arose because Post 35 wanted to do something to honor Navy SEAL Daniel R. Healy of Exeter. Healy was killed June 28, 2005, when his MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

"That was the seed that started everything and it went from there that we wanted to honor everyone in New Hampshire who paid the ultimate sacrifice," Fatello said.

Today, the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, marks a milestone that is worth celebrating, but one we don't dare celebrate too loudly.

It cannot be overstated how wonderful it is that it appears 2012 will be the first year no names will be added to the Global War on Terrorism monument at 69 High St. in Hampton. For the past six years, names of New Hampshire servicemen and servicewomen have been added on Sept. 11 and their lives and sacrifices honored.

"Every year we hope this is the year that we don't have to add to the monument," American Legion Post 35 Commander Ralph Fatello said in a story published in Seacoast Sunday. "But this is the first year — knock on wood — there have been no New Hampshire casualties in either Iraq or Afghanistan. I think it's a bittersweet moment, especially for the families that have loved ones on the monument."

The pain over lives lost in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is always close to the surface here in New Hampshire and around the country. Just one year ago, eight names were added to the Hampton monument, bringing the total to 57.

Everyone knows our military personnel continue to risk their lives, even if the wars have been winding down. The war in Iraq is officially over. U.S. military forces have begun to draw down in Afghanistan, with the goal of Afghan forces taking full control of security by the end of 2014, according to President Barack Obama.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported, U.S. officials handed over formal control of Afghanistan's only large-scale U.S.-run prison to Kabul.

But disagreements between the two countries over the thousands of Taliban and terror suspects remain, reportedly because U.S. officials fear Afghan authorities may let some detainees free.

Fatello, who is unsurpassed in his dedication to honoring the sacrifices made by our military personnel, uses phrases like "light at the end of the tunnel," but that's as far as he will go. Fatello feels even if no names are added to the monument in 2012, it is important to hold the ceremony tonight in Hampton, so that is what will happen.

Each of the people already on the monument will be honored today. Veterans will speak about each one. Gov. John Lynch will be there, as he has every year since 2006.

We think the event will be touching and important as always. Today's generation of children need to attend or at least learn about these kinds of ceremonies to help them fully appreciate what U.S. troops and their families sacrifice for their freedom.

An example of the need for this education became apparent earlier this year. Twice a monument in Exeter honoring late Navy SEAL Daniel R. Healy of Exeter was vandalized. Healy was killed June 28, 2005, when his MH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. The first time the monument was vandalized, in May, a family friend of the Healys caught two 9-year-old boys in the act. The monument in Exeter was vandalized again in July. Both times an image of Healy was smashed.

We believe most children wouldn't think of vandalizing a memorial honoring a hero. It's up to the adults in our community to teach children why they should respect Healy and others who have served.

We thank Fatello for again taking leadership locally and making sure those named on New Hampshire's Global War on Terrorism Memorial Monument are honored again this year. We hope it will be the first of many ceremonies honoring 57 people and that there will be no reason to add even one more.