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November 11. 2012 9:52PM

Grateful Manchester thanks its veterans


John Parchar, of Bedford, holds his grandson, John Parchar III, 2, also of Bedford, as the Manchester Central High Band passes along the Veterans Day Parade route in Manchester. (BRUCE TAYLOR/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - Families lined Elm Street from Webster Street to Veterans Memorial Park on Sunday to salute those who have given a few years, a career or their lives to the military and the country.

The city's annual Veterans Day parade featured men and women who once served or still are in the U.S. military, as well as city organizations who wanted to pay tribute to them. Local American Legion posts marched with military colors or rode in antique cars followed by the West High Schools NJROTC, the Nam Knights motorcycle club, Blue Star Mothers, Liberty House veterans homeless shelter, New Hampshire VA Medical Center employees, local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, as well as all three city high school marching bands.

When the parade stopped in front of City Hall, cheers from onlookers quieted into somber observance. The sound of military Taps, played by West High School sophomore Mariah McCorkle, echoed through the plaza as veterans, both in the parade and standing on the sidewalk, paused and raised their hands to their brow in salute.

The parade finished with a memorial service and laying of a wreath in Veterans Park.

Mayor Ted Gatsas asked the city to recognize veterans when they get a chance, even with a simple thanks.

"The veterans of this great country, the men and women who keep us free and allow us to do the things we do everyday should never ever be forgotten," Gatsas said. "If you see a veteran, thank him."

During the ceremony, the Manchester Veterans Council also recognized parade Grand Marshal Francis "Sharkey" Madden.

Madden was given the Tony Karam Award for his continued service to military veterans. Madden, 83, graduated from Central High School and served in the Pacific during World War II. A lifelong Manchester resident, Madden has served local veterans through the American Legion for more than 40 years, as well as on the Governors Veterans Council.

The Tony Karam Award is given by the Manchester Veterans Council and is named in honor of the late Anthony Karam, a lifelong Manchester resident who gave much of his time to serve veterans.

The crowd in Veterans Park was urged to not only remember the sacrifices veterans have made for the country, but to offer thanks when they could by keynote speaker and Marine veteran Gary Reid. Reid served two tours in the Vietnam War, where he was injured by a grenade and subsequently awarded the Purple Heart. It was the Purple Heart, or at least his medal license plate, that tipped a tollbooth worker off to his service in the military. Reid said when the worker saw the plate, he paid the toll for him. This gesture stuck with him, said Reid.

"They are little things, but they mean a lot," Reid said.

bhall@unionleader.com


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