Families of fallen soldiers find comfort in annual run
RYE -- Army Spc. Jeremy F. Regnier of Littleton was born into a military family that spanned four generations.
His father and grandfather were among those who served.
On Sunday, 18 members of that family gathered at Odiorne Point State Park wearing matching shirts bearing his name, his picture, and the message, "Gone But Not Forgotten."
"He's the only Regnier that didn't come home," Kevin Regnier said of his 22-year-old son, killed in 2004 when an improvised explosive device blew up near his patrol in Baghdad, Iraq.
More than 700 runners and walkers and some 300 family members of the 71 New Hampshire veterans killed in the War on Terror participated in the 3rd annual Run for the Fallen New Hampshire.
Posters with the names and photographs of the lost war heroes were placed on the sides of the roads along the 12-mile route that began at Odiorne.
Family members also sat next to the posters of their loved ones and greeted the runners and walkers who stopped briefly to thank them for their sacrifice.
And there were "Hero Buddies" like 94-year-old World War II Army veteran David Dinwoodie of Tamworth, who sat in a lawn chair along Route 1A next to a poster of Army veteran Christopher Thibodeau.
Thibodeau, 29, grew up in Marlborough and was killed in a helicopter crash during combat operations in Afghanistan in 2011.
Dinwoodie said he was honored to stand in for Thibodeau's family.
"I think it's wonderful to honor all of the servicemen," Dinwoodie said after hugging family members wearing shirts in memory of Army Spc. Justin R. Pellerin, a 21-year-old soldier from Boscawen killed in Afghanistan in 2009.
Lead event organizer Julie Hurrie of Hampton Falls said the turnout for this year's run was the largest ever. She said the goal is to make sure people never forget the fallen veterans and their families.
"I hope they remember that these men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice are people just like us who left their lives and families behind to protect our families," Hurrie said.
This was the first year Sandy Rosenberg of Berlin attended the run in memory of her son, 23-year-old Army Sgt. Randy S. Rosenberg, who died in a roadside bombing in Iraq in 2004.
"We live it every day and we talk about it all the time," Sandy said of her son's death.
Tanya Rosenberg, 24, was a freshman in high school when her brother died.
"It didn't seem real for so long and now that I'm older, it's almost harder," she said.
But the Rosenbergs said events like Sunday's run have made things easier because of the support they offer families.
Mary Dennehy, 17, of Bow, came to run for her father, Army Maj. James W. Dennehy of Salisbury.
A father of 12, Dennehy, 47, died in 2011 from a pulmonary embolism suffered two weeks after he returned home from Kuwait. The long flight home is believed to have caused the embolism.
"I just like coming to honor him and I'm a runner," Mary said.
First-time runners Fred and Kathi Soule of Sandown have a son in the Air Force and two sons who served in the Marines."There's still a war going on, but for some people, if it doesn't impact them directly, they don't give it a second thought usually. It's nice to let the families know there are people who do remember," Kathi Soule said.