BOSCAWEN — As a bagpiper in full Scottish Highland Dress stood guard, dozens of Vietnam-era veterans marched by twos, stopping to salute the large granite wall inscribed with the names of 227 New Hampshire soldiers and Marines killed and missing in action in Vietnam.
Hundreds of veterans, many of them motorcyclists and members of various veterans groups from around the state and the country, gathered for the ninth anniversary ceremony on July 7 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery.
Bob Williams of Manchester, who served in the Air Force in Vietnam in 1967-68, was the force behind establishing the memorial, and has been holding the ceremony every year since to honor those lost in the war.
“I cannot let this wall just sit there,” Williams said before the ceremony. “The people who fought in that war weren't properly treated then. We have to remember them.”
The ceremony began with Vietnam veteran John P. Newman of Northwood, who played patriotic and sentimental tunes on the bagpipes. Newman, who was born and raised in Newfoundland, Canada, came to America as a teenager and joined the army after becoming a citizen. He served in Vietnam and came home, but some of his friends didn't.
“I have a few people up there,” he said after the service, pointing to the names inscribed on the wall.
Veterans, many of them wearing “Nam Knights” leather vests, read each name from the wall. Music of the King Sisters was played, including a medley of patriotic songs, including the songs of each of the armed forces, to loud applause. Prayers were read, and some tears were shed.
Williams' words particularly touched many veterans.
“I look at all their names, and I realize that I didn't know them, yet I know all of them because they fought in the same war I fought in, so they are my brothers and my sisters,” he said.
His message, though, was also directed to all veterans of all wars.
“We cannot forget our brothers and sisters,” he said. “Any of you here, or anywhere out there, whether you served in a war or not, whatever branch of the service you were in … you are my brothers and sisters.”
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Dan Seufert may be reached at email@example.com.