Veterans, future enlistees honored at Flag Ceremony

Allowing one more moment to pause and reflect on Memorial Day, the fourth annual Flag Ceremony in honor of Memorial Day was held at Nashua High School North on Tuesday, attended by students, parents, local and state officials, Air Force JROTC cadets and color guard.

"This is a very special event," school Superintendent Mark Conrad told the crowd gathered on the North lawn Tuesday morning, "What makes the event so special is that it comes from our students."

National Honor Society President Jared Farley served as master of ceremonies, welcoming guests and underscoring the purpose of the event: to honor the memories of those who have fallen, as well as those still serving.

"It is their sacrifices that provides us with the freedom we enjoy today," Farley said.

In addition to current and former service members, the ceremony honored the nine Nashua Class of 2016 students who will join the armed forces after graduation this June.

Youth

Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess called attention to the fact the nation’s wars are fought by youth.

"It’s the new generation who is stepping forward now to defend our country," Donchess said.

The flag ceremony was organized by the National Honor Society, which raised more than $3,500 toward Operation Care for Troops, formerly known as "Moore*Mart," a group that sends care packages to servicemen and servicewomen abroad.

Started by flag ceremony speaker Sergeant First Class Brian Moore, U.S. Army, retired, Operation Care for Troops recently began distributing much-needed supplies for children in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas in conflict.

"Many children, especially in Afghanistan, if they went to school at all, it might be under a tree, and they are expected to bring their own supplies," Moore said.

A graduate of Alvirne High School in Hudson and Rivier University in Nashua, Moore also authored a book about his experiences while deployed in the Middle East titled "Purple Hearts and Wounded Spirits," the proceeds of which go to veteran care groups.

Officials speak

U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., thanked the veterans in the audience, including faculty and staff veterans and the nine students who will join the service this summer.

"On Memorial Day, let us remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can be here on this beautiful day," said Ayotte, who also thanked the National Honor Society for putting the ceremony together, and for their donation to Operation Care for Troops.

"When our men and women are serving overseas, they need to know we’re still thinking of them," she said.

Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Seusing and Conrad reflected on family members who have served, and what their sacrifices meant to them.

"On Memorial Day we get caught up on the corn on the cob and the hamburgers on the grill and the kickoff to summer," said Seusing, who comes from a big military family, "But we have lost, too." Her cousin died at age 32 while serving overseas.

Conrad spoke of his father, who served in WWII and was wounded in Germany.

"This event more than other public events makes me think of what it really means to serve as a veteran," he said. "For those of us who have never served our country in a foreign land … I hope we can use occasions such as this to truly reflect on the depth of the sacrifice."

Rep. Ann Kuster, D-N.H., noted that veterans in the audience represented the Korean War through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and she thanked them for preserving the American values of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

"We want to make sure everyone in this generation and generations to come has the opportunity to pursue happiness," she said.

The difference …

First Lt. Battalion S-6 Andrew Rodriguez, a former Nashua High North teacher, spoke about what Memorial Day meant to him as a serviceman. Rodriguez said that when a peer failed to salute a superior, he had to join an all-night security watch.

"While you’re in (the military), the safety of you and those around you depends on you doing the little things … it’s the difference between your family celebrating you on Veterans Day or Memorial Day," Rodriguez said.

The battle at home

At the end of the event, Moore brought attention to the high rate of veteran suicide in the U.S., which is claiming close to 22 lives per day.

"It’s one thing to survive combat when some did not, but it’s another to come home and attend a funeral for one who died of suicide," he said. Moore added that places such as Providence Farm in Virginia can help veterans transition back to life at home. The farm is a privately funded facility dedicated to the treatment of veterans and their families suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.

More about Providence Farm is online at www.providencefarm.org.

Tina Forbes can be reached at 594-6402, tforbes@nashuatelegraph. com or @Telegraph_TinaF.