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Ayotte presents Pelham veteran with long due medal

NASHUA — Coming from a military family, U.S. Sen.Kelly Ayotte said it is only natural for her to want to honor those who served in the military after she presented long overdue medals to a Pelham resident.

Joseph Norkiewicz Jr. was presented with the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal in recognition of his service in the U.S. Navy during Operation Blue Bat in Beirut, Lebanon, during the late 1950s.

Calling it an honor, Ayotte said that she is always willing to help active or retired service members receive the medals and honors they deserve but, for one reason or another, didn’t obtain.

Norkiewicz was appreciative.

“(Ayotte) was the one who really made this happen; she really turned the screws. When I first submitted this, it went nowhere; she was instrumental in getting it done,” Norkiewicz said.

Norkiewicz called the medal a real honor, especially since he did not even know he was eligible for it for many years.

“I didn’t even know that I was eligible. I belonged to the American Legion and spoke to someone from the VFW who said I might be eligible …. I really feel good right now; it is a real honor.” he said.

Along with Ayotte, retired Chief Petty Officer Jon Worrall of the Navy and Roy Hunter, a lieutenant colonel with the National Guard, attended the medal presentation.

“It’s an honor to be here.(Worrall and I) were both deployed to Iraq, and we are where we are because of the vets before us who pushed for better conditions, so we wanted to show up and honor them for the duty they performed.”

Hunter said Ayotte puts in the extra effort to ensure that all Granite State vets receive everything that they deserve for their service.

“She goes way out of her way, and her office does a wonderful job. She has a heart for veterans; it is wonderful what they do. It makes sure we don’t forget anyone, and keeps older veterans in the public eye,” Hunter said.

Ayotte, who called the ceremony heartwarming, said that since the Vietnam War, Americans have become conscientious in ensuring that American servicemen and women get the respect and honor they deserve.

“It doesn’t matter if someone supports the wars or not, now everyone supports the troops, which wasn’t always the case,” she said.

Saying that many veterans carry their experiences in combat for the rest of their lives, Ayotte said they should feel respected and honored to help ease the burden.

“We should make sure they understand we appreciate their service,” she said.

“We are absolutely actively looking to do this; it is such a privilege to give the medals and honors to veterans that they have earned and should have received but never did. I would say to anyone out there that feels they have earned a medal that they haven’t received, we are happy to work with them to help them out,” Ayotte said.

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