Black Hawk helicopter landing kicks off project to bridge gap between military, civilians
PLAISTOW — Landing behind Timberlane Regional High School in an Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter was something Staff Sgt. Ethan Major never thought would happen.
Major graduated from Timberlane in 2008 and has served in the Army ever since, but on Friday morning he returned in the medevac chopper and was greeted by proud family members that included his father, retired Army Lt. Col. Kevin Major of Sandown, and his grandfather, Army veteran and state Rep. Norman Major of Plaistow.
The Black Hawk landing was the kickoff to “Community Stories: Soldiers Home & Away” — a nine-week project involving nine local libraries and the Timberlane Regional School District.
“We really wanted to bridge the gap between veterans and civilians,” said Alice Major, the logistics and development manager for the Plaistow Public Library who worked closely on the project and helped form the partnership with the school district.
The project was inspired by Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien’s classic Vietnam War novel “The Things They Carried,” and was supported by a grant from New Hampshire Humanities.
It will feature more than 50 free events between Sept. 16 and Nov. 12 with a heavy focus on raising awareness of veterans who served during the Vietnam era.
Many local veterans were on hand for the Black Hawk landing along with community members, students and staff from the middle and high schools, and library representatives.
Vietnam veteran Tom McGall is one of those who will share his story at the Kimball Library in Atkinson on Sept. 29 at 6:30 p.m.
The 71-year-old Fremont man was a staff sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division, also known as the Screaming Eagles, and fought in the battle for Hamburger Hill in May 1969.
He and other veterans have also shared their stories on videos that will be used to help educate Timberlane students.
“It’s just tremendous that they’re doing this for veterans,” he said.
While several veterans climbed into the Black Hawk during Friday’s event, McGall watched from the field. For him and others, the medevac helicopter brought back memories of war.
“We put a lot of bodies and a lot of wounded in them,” he said.
Wayne Nelson, 67, of Nottingham, has served as the project’s Vietnam veteran adviser and is a member of Vietnam Veterans of America New Hampshire Chapter 41.
“We were truly the forgotten generation. Around the state we’re starting to be recognized. … It’s wonderful that they’re doing this,” said Nelson,
Ethan Major said he hopes the project sparks more interest in the military among today’s youth.
“I hope they ask veterans questions and thank them, especially guys from the Vietnam generation. They haven’t received the same kind of response that we have. Every time I’ve come back from deployment it’s been flags and cheering. These guys were just ignored when they came home. The biggest thing is making sure they get the recognition they deserve before they’re gone,” said Major, a resident of Gilmanton Iron Works.
Libraries participating in the project are Chester Public Library, Colby Memorial Library in Danville, Gale Library in Newton, Hampstead Public Library, Kelley Library in Salem, Kimball Library in Atkinson, Plaistow Public Library, Rodgers Memorial Library in Hudson and Sandown Public Library.
The events planned over the coming weeks include author presentations, film screenings and book discussions. Veterans, scholars, artists and authors are among those who will serve as presenters.
Norm Major said the project is unique.
“I think it’s great. The students today can relate to the servicemen who have put their lives on the line so they can have what they have, and also to know there are a lot of MIAs,” he said.
Students with a group called the Timberlane Troops have also worked on the project, focusing much of their time on raising money for their first annual Veteran’s Ball to be held Nov. 10 at Atkinson Country Club.
Timberlane Regional High School senior Kathryn Thomas, president of the Timberlane Troops, joined freshman year because her uncle is in the Air Force.
She said she hopes other students become more aware of the sacrifices made by service men and women.
“I like hearing all their stories,” she said.
For more information and a list of scheduled events, visit http://www.communitystoriesnh.org/.