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Veterans, families come together to celebrate and honor those who have served

  • Tony Rabbia holds his hat over his heart during the Veterans Day ceremony at the State House on November 11, 2012. The Concord gathering took place just in the morning before the larger ceremony at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Tony Rabbia holds his hat over his heart during the Veterans Day ceremony at the State House on November 11, 2012. The Concord gathering took place just in the morning before the larger ceremony at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Bud Truchon, right, salutes during a moment of rememberance after laying one of five wreaths down at a Veterans Day ceremony at the State House on November 11, 2012. The Concord gathering took place just in the morning before the larger ceremony at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Bud Truchon, right, salutes during a moment of rememberance after laying one of five wreaths down at a Veterans Day ceremony at the State House on November 11, 2012. The Concord gathering took place just in the morning before the larger ceremony at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Ceylan Ayan, 12, and her sister Perri, 10, volunteered to hand out carnations to people attending the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on November 11, 2012. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Ceylan Ayan, 12, and her sister Perri, 10, volunteered to hand out carnations to people attending the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on November 11, 2012.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Clayton Gassett, of Franklin, sits in front of his the plaques for his sister Thelma Lemire and her husband Paul at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on November 11, 2012. Gassett comes to the annual Veterans Day ceremony every year and arrives early to spend time with his family. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Clayton Gassett, of Franklin, sits in front of his the plaques for his sister Thelma Lemire and her husband Paul at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on November 11, 2012. Gassett comes to the annual Veterans Day ceremony every year and arrives early to spend time with his family.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • A note for Bruce Merrill was placed against his headstone before the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the New Hampshire State Cemetery on November 11, 2012 in Boscawen. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    A note for Bruce Merrill was placed against his headstone before the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the New Hampshire State Cemetery on November 11, 2012 in Boscawen.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • James Sarcione, 9, took a break from handing out carnations to people at the annual Veterans Day ceremony to spend time with his grandfather's vault at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery on November 11, 2012 in Boscawen. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    James Sarcione, 9, took a break from handing out carnations to people at the annual Veterans Day ceremony to spend time with his grandfather's vault at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery on November 11, 2012 in Boscawen.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • There was a large crowd at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery on November 11, 2012. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    There was a large crowd at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery on November 11, 2012.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • A member of the New Hampshire Honor Guard plays the trumpet as the ceremony winds down. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    A member of the New Hampshire Honor Guard plays the trumpet as the ceremony winds down.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Christopher Smith, of Raymond, releases two balloons at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery on November 11, 2012 following the annual Veterans Day ceremony. Smith's son Christopher is buried at the cemetery and it has become a family tradition to release a balloon in his honor on special occasions. For this ceremony, Smith brought two balloons. One for his son and one in honor of all veterans. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Christopher Smith, of Raymond, releases two balloons at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery on November 11, 2012 following the annual Veterans Day ceremony. Smith's son Christopher is buried at the cemetery and it has become a family tradition to release a balloon in his honor on special occasions. For this ceremony, Smith brought two balloons. One for his son and one in honor of all veterans.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Tony Rabbia holds his hat over his heart during the Veterans Day ceremony at the State House on November 11, 2012. The Concord gathering took place just in the morning before the larger ceremony at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Bud Truchon, right, salutes during a moment of rememberance after laying one of five wreaths down at a Veterans Day ceremony at the State House on November 11, 2012. The Concord gathering took place just in the morning before the larger ceremony at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Ceylan Ayan, 12, and her sister Perri, 10, volunteered to hand out carnations to people attending the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on November 11, 2012. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Clayton Gassett, of Franklin, sits in front of his the plaques for his sister Thelma Lemire and her husband Paul at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen on November 11, 2012. Gassett comes to the annual Veterans Day ceremony every year and arrives early to spend time with his family. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • A note for Bruce Merrill was placed against his headstone before the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the New Hampshire State Cemetery on November 11, 2012 in Boscawen. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • James Sarcione, 9, took a break from handing out carnations to people at the annual Veterans Day ceremony to spend time with his grandfather's vault at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery on November 11, 2012 in Boscawen. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • There was a large crowd at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery on November 11, 2012. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • A member of the New Hampshire Honor Guard plays the trumpet as the ceremony winds down. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Christopher Smith, of Raymond, releases two balloons at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery on November 11, 2012 following the annual Veterans Day ceremony. Smith's son Christopher is buried at the cemetery and it has become a family tradition to release a balloon in his honor on special occasions. For this ceremony, Smith brought two balloons. One for his son and one in honor of all veterans. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Hundreds of people dotted the lawn of the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery yesterday morning to celebrate and honor the men and women who have served in the U.S. military.

They put their hands on their hearts or saluted in unison as the Boscawen Elementary School choir sang the national anthem and clapped together as Gov. John Lynch and others gave moving speeches. But as they joined together, each person also held a very personal memory as they came out to celebrate Veterans Day.

Jim Lahey, an Army veteran, remembered his brother and sister, who are honored at the cemetery. Elizabeth Lawrence

teared up as she stood next to her father’s vault in one of the cemetery’s Columbariums. And Tony Rabbia reflected internally on memories that he rarely shares. Other veterans recalled moments of deployment and stories from duty, and many came with family members to share in the day.

‘Everybody went’

For Lahey, 78, vising the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery is about visiting family. Lahey and his wife come from Plymouth each year for the Veterans Day ceremony and to visit the grave of his sister, who served in the Navy during World War II, and a plaque dedicated to his brother, who was killed in World War II and is buried in Florence, Italy. Lahey plans to join his sister at the cemetery when he dies.

“It’s pretty special for me,” he said. “This place here means a lot.”

Lahey served in the Army from 1956 to 1958 and was stationed in Lundstahl, Germany. He didn’t serve in active combat, as the United States was in the Cold War during that time. Although the scars of World War II and Germany’s destruction were still deep, Lahey said many of the Germans he encountered were welcoming and friendly toward U.S. soldiers.

“The German people really felt like home to us,” he said. “They came and they would bring cookies and invite you into their homes and stuff. It was a good camaraderie not only with the soldiers but also with the people there.”

Lahey said it saddens him that some young people today see Veterans Day as a day off from work or school and fail to recognize the sacrifice of those who have served. In his generation, it wasn’t a question for most people whether they would enlist in the military, which is why he and his siblings all served, he said.

“The war came, and everybody went, no questions asked,” he said. “That’s the way it is.”

An emotional visit

Elizabeth Lawrence of Concord has never served in the military, but many of her family members have. Lawrence was at yesterday’s ceremony to visit the vault of her father, who served in the Air Force and died in 2009, and to honor her son, an Iraq War veteran currently living in Seattle.

Lawrence teared up as she spoke about her father and touched the engraved name on his vault. Her father served during the Korean War, where he was stationed in Japan as an air traffic controller.

Her oldest son served three tours in Iraq in the Army, from the age of 21 to 28. Lawrence said she stopped watching the news while he was there because she was scared to see anything about Iraq. Luckily they were able to stay connected through instant messaging, and she would always stay signed on, just to see if he was on, she said. Her youngest son is continuing the military tradition as he waits to hear back from the Air Force.

The combination of Veterans Day and visiting her father made for an emotional day.

“Sometimes you can put it away a little bit and go about your daily life, but when you come out here and you just look at all of the names and all of the people that are here,” she said.

Days when the sun is shining, as it was during most of the ceremony, are Lawrence’s favorite to visit her father. She said he loved the sun, and it hits his vault perfectly as it rises.

Private memories

Tony Rabbia, a Navy veteran, attended the ceremony in Boscawen as well as a ceremony in Concord in the State House Hall of Flags. Rabbia was in the Navy from 1966 to 1972 and served in the Vietnam War for part of his time. During the ceremony at the State House, he laid a wreath at the front of the hall.

Rabbia is active in several veterans associations, including the American Legion and the Forty and Eight, the two where he dedicates most of his time. He works with veterans seven days a week, taking up about 60 hours. He helps them however he can but keeps most of his memories to himself.

“I have a lot of friends of mine from back in 1967 whose names are on the Wall, the Vietnam Wall over in Washington, D.C., and those are memories that never go away,” he said.

Paying tribute

Throughout the cemetery before the ceremony began, families celebrated the day in different ways. Richard and Barbara Pellerin of Hooksett reminisced about the oceans put between their young love when Richard was drafted to serve in Korea in 1953. They wrote letters nearly every day and got married a month after he came home in 1955. Yesterday, they stood outside the vault of their infant son who died in 1959 and said they would be laid to rest there someday, too.

Donald Sprague of Tilton brought his granddaughters Ashley and Kelsey Chamberlain to see the tomb of their great-grandfather, who fought across Europe when he served during World War II.

And Christopher Smith and his wife, of Raymond, came to release two balloons into the air after the ceremony, one to honor their deceased son, who served four years in the 82nd Airborne, and the other in honor of all veterans. Their son died in 2008.

It was a day when individual memories and collective thanks merged in tribute.

Richard Pellerin summed up the atmosphere in the cemetery well: “It’s very peaceful. It just,” he paused, “gives you the chills sometimes.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or
kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

America is forever indebted for your service. Thank-you so much Vets!!!

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