LONDONDERRY — Some served on battlefields while others kept watch on their native shore, but all veterans are worthy of our gratitude.
That was the message from William Graser of the Nevins Active Adult Community, who led his neighbors in an evening of remembrance and gratitude Monday night. About 70 or so residents, the majority of them veterans, attended a neighborhood Veterans Day ceremony inside the community clubhouse.
Held at 6 p.m. sharp, the ceremony commemorated "the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" in 1918 when World War I officially ended.
Graser, a retired sergeant first class in the U.S. Army and a veteran of the Vietnam War, said when it comes to honoring those who served, there's no such thing as "a job too little."
"Veterans Day is a celebration of who we are as a nation and who we are as people," he said. "And each and every veteran, no matter where or when you served, has value."
Chaplain James Cavatis of the U. S. Marine Corps League, a Vietnam veteran, paused to salute the flag before a moving reading of "Unknown: A Chaplain's Prayer."
"At our feet the rows of wooden crosses show the toll of battles fought," read Cavatis, telling the tale of a fallen soldier whose name no one could recall but whose actions were fondly remembered by comrades and strangers alike.
"A simple word, a simple name," Cavatis read. "Proves to me no one really is an unknown soldier."
Audience members wiped away tears as Graser read the names of the seven Nevins residents who'd passed away this past year, the most recent one being Stanley Focht. An airman first class who served in the U.S. Air Force military police K-9 unit, died Oct. 21 at the age of 70.
Photographs of lost friends flashed across the television screen as the strains of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" piped through the room.
Serving as the evening's keynote speaker was retired Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Rice of the N.H. Army National Guard.
Rice, a resident of Nashua, served from 1966 to 2006.
"To all of the veterans in the audience, I have a simple but heartfelt message: Thank you," he said.
"You have defended America in the best of times and the worst of times, often with little fanfare," Rice said. "Today is a time to honor all who fought for our freedom, those who understand the meaning of hardship and the catastrophe of war. Yet you've all endured."