Soldier from Pelham remembered for self-sacrifice
Dan Gionet's mom, Denise Gionet of Pelham, sits in front of baby pictures of Dan and of Ella, the daughter he never knew existed when he died in Iraq in June 2006. (Union Leader file)
"He always had the biggest heart, the biggest smile, and would give you the shirt off his back whether he knew you or not," recalls longtime friend Gregg Gelinas of New Boston.
As it has with other fallen heroes before him, this is how New Hampshire will ensure that Gionet's name is remembered through the ages.
He - and his family - never knew he had a child, a daughter born to a former girlfriend.
Ella Gionet, who has her daddy's eyes and smile, will be in Pelham for the 1 p.m. ceremony next Sunday. It's her 8th birthday.
Among those who can't wait to meet Ella is Ashley Gelinas, Dan's lifelong friend. The kids grew up together when their families lived in Lowell, Mass., before Dan and his mother moved to Pelham.
Over the years, Gelinas and her husband, Gregg, stayed close with Dan. Both of them were firefighters, and Gionet talked about maybe joining the fire service when he got out of the military. After he re-enlisted, he trained as a medic.
Sethre was with Gionet when the IED went off on June 4, 2006. Their lieutenant was killed and Gionet was critically wounded.
But, Sethre recalled, "He was already outside the tank with his aid bag and he was trying to help other soldiers that were injured."
"He looked up at me and my other medic and he said, '...I'm so happy you're here.' He just had the biggest smile on his face.
The years since Dan's death have been rough, Sethre admitted, but he's doing better now. "That's why this trip is a big positive step forward for me."
"He made the ultimate sacrifice."
For Ashley Gelinas, losing her childhood friend in war has made Memorial Day more meaningful. "A lot of people think it's just an extra day off. It's not," she said. "It's that day off to reflect on who is not here."
And, she said, "I can't wait to have my daughter and his daughter be able to play together like we did.
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