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November 12. 2013 12:02AM

In Hampstead, gratitude and remembrance

HAMPSTEAD — Army veteran Jack Pruett has many war stories to tell.

A recipient of three Purple Hearts and other war medals, the 89-year-old retired colonel spent 34 years in the Army, serving in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

"There are a lot of memories and a lot of times wondering if you were going to get through it or not, but I got lucky. I was one of the lucky few," Pruett recalled Monday following a Veterans Day observance at Hampstead Middle School where he and more than 100 others remembered the veterans who were lost and honored others who have served or are actively serving in the military.

The ceremony brought different generations of war veterans, their families and community members together to reflect and express their gratitude.

They also paid special tribute to fallen Marine Pfc. Matthew L. Bertolino of Hampstead.

The 20-year-old Bertolino was killed when his vehicle rolled over during combat patrol in Afghanistan in 2006.

At Monday's ceremony, members of the New Hampshire chapter of Honor and Remember Inc. presented Bertolino's mother, Joyce, with a plaque and an "Honor and Remember" flag.

The flag recognizes all who have died while serving in the military.

"The flag serves as a symbol of national gratitude for the hundreds of thousands of American men and women who bravely made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy. The flag also helps to promote healing for the thousands of families that deserve recognition for the sacrifice of a lost love one," said Bill Geary of Londonderry, director of the New Hampshire chapter whose nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Geary of Derry, died in combat in Afghanistan in 2010.

Gold Star mother Lynn Savage of Wolfeboro spoke of how Bertolino felt privileged and honored to be a Marine.

"Matt felt a deep calling to serve his country. He believed it to be his duty. He wanted to make this a better world for everyone. He was proud to be an American and equally proud to be a Marine," said Savage, whose own son, Army Cpl. Matthew Stanley, 22, was killed in 2006 by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Howie Steadman, who led the ceremony, also asked the audience to pause for a moment of silence to remember Bertolino and two other Hampstead veterans who were killed in recent years.Air Force veteran Benjamin Davine, 27, died in 2011 when his car collided with a fuel tanker while traveling to work at a military base and Army Capt. Jonathan D. Grassbaugh was killed in a roadside bombing in 2007.jschreiber@newstote.com


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