After 75 years, a hero comes home

On Memorial Day, as we honor the brave Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our freedom, we are remembering Granite Staters like U.S. Marine Corps First Sgt. David Quinn of Temple, New Hampshire.

According to his obituary, First Sergeant Quinn enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves in 1941, where he was trained for amphibious assaults as part of a unit preparing for war in the Pacific Theater. His unit eventually brought him far from home to New Zealand, where he met Zoe Boeson who was training to be a nurse. They were married on June 28, 1943, just four months before his unit shipped out. Though they had only a few months together, she would later remark that they enjoyed more happiness in those four months than most people find in a lifetime.

First Sgt. Quinn fought in what came to be known as “Bloody Tarawa,” an important victory for the United States that came at the cost of over one thousand Marines, with another nearly three thousand Marines wounded.

First Sgt. Quinn was among those killed, and his family assumed his body had been lost at sea. In 2016, First Sergeant Quinn’s remains were identified when a DNA sample led to a positive match with his nieces. On May 4, 2018, nearly 75 years after his death, First Sergeant Quinn finally returned home to New Hampshire, where he was buried with full military honors.

Memorial Day provides an opportunity for us to come together to honor the heroic men and women like First Sergeant Quinn who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, our ideals, and the enduring concept of freedom that is our very core.

First Sergeant Quinn’s story is a reminder of the profound gratitude we owe all who have given their lives so that their fellow citizens may live in peace – a sacrifice they made on our behalf simply because we’re all American and we share a democracy. I was proud to commemorate First Sergeant Quinn’s life in the Congressional Record in honor of his long-overdue return home to Temple.

Memorial Day is also a time for us to rededicate ourselves to supporting those who have followed in the footsteps of our fallen heroes. As part of those efforts, I recently joined Senator Marco Rubio in introducing the bipartisanVeterans’ Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan (VET OPP) Act of 2018 to help prioritize education, housing, vocational rehabilitation and employment, and military-to-civilian transition services that are critical to helping our brave veterans succeed in the 21st century innovation economy.

I am also glad that the Senate recently passed the bipartisan VA MISSION Act and sent it to President Trump for his signature. This bill provides expanded community-care options for all New Hampshire veterans, and also aims to address issues with the VA Choice Program – issues that I have heard about from New Hampshire veterans and providers. It also includes other key priorities that I have long supported including expanding VA caregiver programs to all veterans, regardless of when they served; working to prevent substance misuse among veterans; removing barriers for veterans to access telehealth care; and helping address the VA’s workforce challenges.

We can never fully repay those who serve or have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom as First Sgt. Quinn and so many others have done. But we can – and we must – recommit ourselves to honoring that sacrifice, working every day to live up to our nation’s ideals of freedom and inclusion – ideals that they fought to protect. And we must continue working to ensure that future generations of Granite Staters and Americans understand and appreciate the sacrifices made by these heroes and their families.

Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, is a U.S. Senator for New Hampshire.