By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, June 1, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
[Atlantic News Photos by Liz Premo]
HAMPTON -- Seven Winnacunnet High School graduates who lost their lives while in military service to their country were honored last week at a special ceremony that was broadcast live throughout the school.
While friends and family members looked on from their seats in the front office foyer a plaque was unveiled, bearing the names of the departed, their year of graduation from WHS, their rank and military branch, and the year they died.
So honored were Bruce W. Brown (Class of 1963, US Army); Robert E. Shaw ('66, USMC); Edmond G. Findlen ('67, USAF); Steven J. Philbrick ('68, USMC); Mark W. Holman (US Army) and Desiree Loy (USAF), both Class of '77; and MarciAnna Y. Rivera (2006, US Army).
"This memorial commemorates those Winnacunnet graduates who have sacrificed their lives for our country," read the inscription, above which was placed the Great Seal of the United States of America and the Winnacunnet Warrior Indian mascot.
At the bottom of the plaque was written, "Dedicated on Memorial Day, 2007, to honor the fallen heroic Warriors of Winnacunnet High School" and a quote by Winston Churchill, "Never was so much owed by so many to so few."
The plaque, which will hang by the entrance to the school's Hawley Library, was the fruition of an effort embarked upon several months ago by Principal Randy Zito and teacher Jack Ford. They were assisted by American Legion Post #35 Commander Ralph Fatello and Post #35 Chaplain, John Holman, whose son Mark's name is one of those inscribed.
Those in attendance included Mark's mother Connie Holman and sister Melanie (Holman) Caruso; Robert's parents, Anna and Ernest Shaw and sister Sonja (Shaw) Chouinard; Mike Schwotzer, who was Findlen's best friend; and local Veteran and Post #35 member, Wes Balsiger, among others.
The ceremony featured the solemn presentation of colors by the WHS MCJROTC color guard, as well as student Anthony Grant singing "Amazing Grace." As the plaque was unveiled, Holman offered remembrances of those honored, noting specific connections to their time at WHS.
Among the cherished memories: Brown's ambition to become an architect, Shaw's membership with the WHS Audio Visual Aide program and wrestling team; Philbrick's desire to be a state trooper; Findlen's love of guitar playing, folk singing and history; Holman's sense of humor and his enjoyment of music and art; Loy's involvement in student council and as a WHS majorette, as well as her joy of laughter and love of music; and Rivera's membership with the WHS MCJROTC program and her goal to become a physical therapist to help wounded soldiers returning from war.
"We come today in remembrance, to honor our departed, who nobly served their great country to keep us free," he said. "They need not have died on the battlefields to have served their nation well. Those who served share a bond of service, pride and love of country."
He continued, "Our recognition today will hopefully bring comfort, peace and hope to the families of those who have served, and move future generations forward in the cause of freedom. Let us never forget their noble actions of service, loyalty, devotion and sacrifice that we may continue to stand in the glory of freedom in this great land."
Holman concluded his remarks by saying, "May God bless America and our men and women in the Armed Forces who serve our nation. May they never be forgotten."
Fatello also took time to address listeners and viewers, thanking Principal Zito and Coach Ford for "taking the time to honor these seven WHS graduates who lost their lives while in the service of our country."
He noted that "service to our country has always been a noble and honorable endeavor. Those that serve in the armed forces do so for the most part because of an inner calling," he said, one that "comes from deep within one's soul."
Raising his right hand for emphasis with regard to a commitment to serve, Fatello recited a portion of the Oath of Military Enlistment: "I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same."
He then added, "These seven graduates we honor and remember today all took that oath. They lived and died by it. We owe it to them, but more importantly we owe it to their families, to never forget their sacrifices, or the sacrifices that their loved ones have endured."
Fatello asked all to "remember these former WHS students this Memorial Day, and remember all the other true Warriors who have died in America's wars, so that we can enjoy the freedoms we all have today. Thank you, and God bless America."
As the ceremony concluded, Zito offered a promise to "make sure this community doesn't forget those who served."
"It was beautiful," said Anna Shaw of the ceremony, pausing to touch the portion of the plaque bearing her son's name. "We sure appreciate it. It's nice to sec how much everybody appreciates what they did [for America]."
"It was a wonderful ceremony," said Post #35 Past Commander, Joe Kutt. "It was long overdue." Acknowledging that the "recognizing our lost heroes takes a team effort to get it accomplished," Kutt observed that the "American Legion [will keep] taking care of items that should be done, one at a time."
"I think it was a lovely memorial service," said Connie Holman. "I think we really need to appreciate the fact that there are still people who want to remember and keep their loved ones in their hearts."
She added that such Memorial Day observances offer "comfort, peace and hope to families of those who served" and "bring forth the true meaning of this day of remembrance for everyone."