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November 11. 2012 9:50PM

At NH Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen: A debt of gratitude owed


Members of the Joint Forces and Veterans Organization Color Guard perform military honors at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery Veterans Day ceremony Sunday. (DAN SEUFERT PHOTO)

BOSCAWEN - At a distinctly non-political event, speaker after speaker Sunday morning sought to remind Americans of the huge national debt - to the nation's veterans.

"We owe our veterans a great debt of gratitude that we can never pay," said retired Marine Corps Sgt. Al Baldasaro, the chairman of the House State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee, speaking at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery's Veterans Day ceremony.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte used a political theme from a different cause to make the point.

"The 1 percent protect the 99 percent," she said. "The American veteran has done more that any other person or any other group in the world for the cause of freedom. We thank that 1 percent for making the 99 percent of us safe."

Hundreds attended the late-morning ceremony at the 6,000-grave cemetery. On hand was the 39th Army Band, the Boscawen fifth-grade chorus and a military color guard. Ayotte and Baldasaro were joined in speaking by Gov. John Lynch, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass, and Maj. Gen. William N. Riddell, the adjutant general of the New Hampshire National Guard.

Also on had were several veterans, some in wheelchairs, who were brought to the ceremony in vans from the state Veterans Home in Tilton.

This year's event was hosted by New Hampshire members of the U.S. Marine Corps, on the weekend of the corps 237th birthday.

Speakers also reminded that Veterans Day is not just for veterans of past wars. Riddell noted that 7,000 American soldiers have been involved in the Hurricane Sandy rescue and recovery efforts. There are about 125,000 veterans in the state, he said, and 10,000 soldiers who could be sent to war or tragedy at any time.

"For many, war is an afterthought," Riddell said. "I will always place our mission first."

Shaheen noted that Granite State soldiers were deployed to New York City last week, showing that soldiers are saving lives "where they are needed."

"On this day, let us remember to protect and defend those who have protected our nation," she said. "We need to take care of those who take care of us."

Ayotte said 19 members of the N.H. National Guard's 169th Aviation Regiment MEDEVAC unit are about to be deployed to Afghanistan "to provide medical services we hope we will not need."

Baldasaro, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm who has also had a son serve in the military, paid tribute to mothers of lost soldiers, who are called Gold Star Mothers.

"We veterans don't ask for much," he said. "As we all await the return of our heroes, we must take care of our aging veterans, of our homeless veterans, of all of our veterans."

"Thank you for allowing us to live in freedom," Lynch said. "We can never repay the debt we owe you."

dseufert@newstote.com


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