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May 26. 2014 8:46PM

Veterans urge residents to remember those 'left behind' during Merrimack event


Veterans salute the American flag during a Memorial Day service Monday at the Last Rest Cemetery in Merrimack. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/Union Leader Correspondent)

MERRIMACK — Jason Wheeler, who served two tours of duty with the U.S. Army, urged local residents to help an area veteran — by simply shaking their hand or offering them a hug.

“We need a lot of help. We really need your love and support,” Wheeler told a group of people who gathered Monday at the Last Rest Cemetery for a brief Memorial Day ceremony.

Wheeler, of Merrimack, encouraged the community to take action and get involved, in order to do their part in trying to prevent additional suicides by soldiers. Joined by his service dog, Wheeler said he has already lost comrades and friends who decided to take their own lives, because of post traumatic stress disorder or other serious issues associated with combat.

Wheeler, who suffers from a traumatic brain injury, says it will take a lot of people to make a positive impact.

“It is an epidemic now,” he said, adding he was honored to have served in the Gulf War and the Iraq War.

John Murray, a Vietnam veteran, shook Wheeler’s hand following the ceremony, thanking him for his dedication and service.

“Today is about showing love and respect for our brothers and sisters, and remembering those who were left behind,” said Murray, who served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1975. “During our welcome home, we got spit on, and protested against. There was no heroes welcome. We were ashamed.”

But today, Murray said there is a different reception for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who are lucky enough to survive.

Patriotism was prevalent Monday, as residents waved their flags and saluted the fallen during the first unofficial day of summer.

Flags were scattered throughout the Last Rest Cemetery, marking the graves of local heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.

‘We should never, never forget what the veterans have done for our country,” stressed Salvatore Scali of the local VFW. There is a cost for freedom, added Scali, who said it is important to keep that message fresh in the minds of each American.

Bob Roche, 80, of Merrimack, said he tries each year to attend the town’s Memorial Day service.

“This is a great country, and I think we have come so far. I think a lot of people respect those that have served,” said Roche, who spent 21 years in the U.S. Air Force. “This is a pretty meaningful day for me. I want to pay honor to those that went on before me.”

It is a time to reflect and remember all of the years spent in service, echoed Gordon Tyszko, who served a combined 25 years in the U.S. Army, Air Force and Marines.

“There are so many memories,” said Tyszko, 76, of Merrimack. “But we must not forget all of the kids that are still out there continuing to fight.”

Dozens of families showed up for holiday festivities in Merrimack Monday, including the parade down Daniel Webster Highway and Baboosic Lake Road. The Merrimack High School marching band, American Legion Riders of Merrimack, area boy scouts, local police and fire trucks participated in the parade and wreath laying ceremonies at the cemetery and American Legion building.

khoughton@newstote.com


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