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NH Veterans' Views: Al Heidenreich: Deciding among NH's plenteous ceremonies is a good problem to have

By AL HEIDENREICH
December 06. 2017 10:44PM




In my opinion (great name for a TV talk show, eh?) every day should be Veterans Day, but I admit to being somewhat biased.

Veterans Day observances in New Hampshire are increasingly being held at many locations and time slots; that’s the good news.

The not-so-good news is that it has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to attend and/or participate in as many as we would like. As an Honor Guard member at my home American Legion Post there were so many requests/invitations that some unpleasant decisions were necessary.

Parades in Nashua, Bedford, Danville and Manchester. Ceremonies in the Queen City’s Arms Park and Veterans Park and at several local bridges.

There were events at the veterans’ hospital in town and New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, plus at the State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen and any number of area burial grounds.

This is nowhere near a complete list but you get the point. There is no simple solution but there is a starting point already in place: namely, the current members of the various veterans’ organizations. There is little doubt that most do a great job but we can all do better.

Every member should talk to and encourage (OK, recruit) fellow members to participate in these programs. March, walk, ride or just show up in support of those who do. Cheer, applaud, sing the National Anthem (c’mon, you know the words). Stand up and be counted.

If you are a vet be proud to show it. A big plus would be to make better use of the 2-3 day observances. It can and will work.

Veterans “Day” 2018 falls on a Sunday (no, I didn’t have anything to do with it), so we have a year to get ready and plan accordingly.

American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Catholic War Veterans, the New Hampshire and national Korean War Veterans Association, The New Hampshire Veterans’ Association, a special shout out to the independent women’s affiliated veterans groups and all Auxiliary and associated members. If I missed any it is unintentional and they are also most certainly welcome. Let’s see how many embrace the idea.

Cold parade days

More than a few veterans went out of their way to express to me their consternation in reference to the absence of the local high school bands in the Manchester Veterans Day parade, as scheduled in the printed program. Several alluded to the fact that many times they perform at various athletic events in less than perfect conditions. They considered it a slight to those being honored. A couple of the offended went so far as to say that our combat troops endured much more severe conditions in defense of our country.

While I can understand their frustration, let’s put it in proper perspective. We are talking apples and oranges here. In speaking with people “in the know” behind the scenes, the decision to pull the plug was not without serious thought and interaction among those involved — parents, band members, school officials — starting the night before.

Consider: (a) The student musicians were unanimously in favor of performing in the parade and ceremony. (b) There were mixed emotions among parents. (c) There were safety concerns from school officials. Erring on the side of caution prevailed.

I was at Arms Park on the Merrimack at 7 a.m. with the VFW Honor Squad for the wreath throwing ceremony when the cancellation call came for that ceremony. While I was disappointed, I had no quarrel with the decision. The wind was blowing off the water big time and I was properly clothed but it still froze my dignity! It was colder than a well digger’s knee and all things considered it was the right call. Matter closed.

One nation under God

One of the “Four Freedoms” is freedom of religion. My take on that is that it encompasses all faiths and beliefs, that it’s for those who follow the doctrine of their choice, n’est-ce pas? The Pledge of Allegiance contains the words “one nation, under God” and although this country was founded on Christian values there is no doubt in my mind that the words “under God” mean the one you worship.

Having said that, The American Legion features the motto “For God and Country,” yet we rightfully abide by the practice of the separation of church and state. Even so, I have noted over the years that some houses of worship do not have our nation’s flag on display, and while I never really considered it an issue, it has come up in a few conversations. As for myself, I hand salute the flag when passing it after Communion. No particular reason other than showing respect but the lack of the presence of our country’s symbol at any public gathering makes me wonder. I am by no means initiating a movement or protest, nor am I passing judgment, but maybe I got a few others thinking about it. If so, mission accomplished. It is not a sin to be patriotic or a believer.

Admin

Membership dues and prospective members are accepted, encouraged and needed to keep veterans’ organizations and auxiliaries up and running in 2018. A reminder to all 2017s who “forgot” their dues. Did you know that most vet chapters have a rule in place to help any member who, for whatever reason, cannot pay? OK, now you do. All you have to do is ask. You’ve supported us in the past; now it’s our turn to offer a helping hand (not a handout).

The New Hampshire Korean War Veterans Association meeting will take place at the Henry J. Sweeney Post function hall, 251 Maple St. in Manchester, on Saturday, Dec. 9. A full buffet will be served at 1:30 p.m. with a short business meeting to follow. Members and guests are to RSVP to cjperreault@myfairpoint.net. Interested prospective members are welcome.

Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy holiday season!

Al Heidenreich is past commander of Henry J. Sweeney American Legion Post 2. Write to Al with your questions and comments at alanheidenreich@aol.com.


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