TILTON — Decades after thousands of Granite Staters left the warmth of family to defend the country they loved by heading to the jungles of Vietnam, special ceremonies were held at the New Hampshire Veterans Home on Monday honoring their service and sacrifice.
“Our Vietnam veterans answered our country’s call and served with honor,” said Air Force veteran Bill Bertholdt, 81, president of the NHVH Resident Council.
In one of the war’s most profound tragedies, many who served came home to be shunned and to face treatment unbefitting of their courage.
Adele Basour, regent of Laconia’s Mary Butler Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, read the names of the 48 residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home who had served during the war. Each was presented with a framed certificate honoring them in recognition of their valor, service and sacrifice.
The Fallen Heroes Moving Wall — displaying the names, ages, hometowns, branches of service and replica dog tags of the 228 Granite State residents who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War — served as a backdrop for the ceremonies that were organized and hosted by the Mary Butler Chapter.
Jane Pike, who chaired the New Hampshire Vietnam 50th Anniversary Committee, said the purpose of the Moving Wall project is to maintain a continuous, interactive memorial that will open the door for expressions of love and gratitude for military personnel from New Hampshire who died in Vietnam.
“We realized that while Vietnam veterans have been honored repeatedly, we weren’t doing anything for our fallen heroes,” she told the crowd.
Pike has witnessed the positive effects of the already well-traveled memorial. During the four days it was displayed at the White River Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Pike said, she watched Vietnam era veterans stop and look at it and interact with other veterans and DAR members.
“When they left, they were smiling and moving a little lighter on their feet,” she said. When it was displayed at the Manchester VA Medical Center, Pike recounted being approached by a chaplain who said, “I can’t believe how much healing has gone on.”
The memorial, she said, is helping some overcome a sometimes painful past and finally emerge from the darkness of war.
“It’s been successful,” she said.
After speaking about the impetus for the memorial and its history, Pike asked the Vietnam veterans in the audience to stand if able, or to wave a hand if remaining seated.
“We are glad you are home. Thank you for your service,” Pike said to applause.
Chris Scott, a representative of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s office, read a letter on her behalf, explaining she was headed back to Washington and unable to attend.
The senator thanked the DAR for organizing and hosting the event and “working to ensure that the memories of brave Americans will endure and that their stories will be told for many days to come. ... This traveling tribute is a reminder of New Hampshire’s proud history of military service.”