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Marine ‘humbled' after White House visit

The Andover Marine who represented the state at a White House dinner in honor of the soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq said it was as impressive as it was an honor.

&#';I've done some pretty cool things, but it's going to take a lot to beat that one,&#'; said Marine Capt. Stephen McNeill of Andover after being among more than 70 members of the military, including two from New Hampshire, honored by their commander in chief on Wednesday.

Staff Sgt. Anthony Ranfos was also honored Wednesday. He was born and raised in Manchester and is now an Army recruiter in Chillicothe, Ohio.

President Obama and senior administration officials invited soldiers to represent each of the states and territories at a dinner recognizing the contributions of troops to the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

McNeill was recommended for the honor by Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Michael Barrett, the corps' highest-ranking non-commissioned officer.

&#';I know that my selection to go to this event is a huge compliment, because I'm just a representative of our institution and our state,&#'; McNeill said.

In addition to the president and first lady, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and the heads of the five military service branches and the National Guard and reserve also attended.

During his tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, McNeill's responsibilities as a personnel administrative officer included compiling casualty reports to be used to notify the next of kin of soldiers killed in action.

Against that experience, McNeill viewed his selection for the honor, tabbed &#';A Nation's Gratitude&#'; by the White House, as humbling.

&#';There are times that you wish the nation knew more about some Marines and service members who go unrecognized or are recognized only within the military itself,&#'; he said. &#';You wish some folks were more of a household name than they are.&#';

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