Saturday November 17, 2012

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- "Family. Sorrow. Loss. Pride."

With those four words, radio host Peter St. James, who regularly airs interviews with New Hampshire servicemen and women stationed overseas, summed up a somber ceremony Friday during which the families of a fallen soldier, airman and two Marines were presented with the state’s Medal of Honor.

Gov. John Lynch, who signed the law creating the medal in 2007, awarded 54 medals during the first ceremony held last year. On Friday, he was joined by military officials and New Hampshire’s two U.S. senators to present medals to the families of Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Geary of Derry; Army Spc. Nicholas Bernier of East Kingston; Air Force Capt. Michael Chinburg of Durham; and Marine Capt. Gary Dillon of Concord.

"I know the void in your hearts will never be filled, ever, regardless of how much time goes by," Lynch said. "Hopefully, this Medal of Honor will be reflective of our appreciation for your sacrifice and a memory that will last forever in the name of your loved ones."

The award was created to honor any New Hampshire citizen who has given his or her life while in the line of military duty since Nov. 4, 1979, the date when a group of militants took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, holding U.S. hostages in captivity for 444 days.

St. James said his interviews with servicemen and women started as a holiday special to let troops know that folks back at home were thinking of them.


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But it has morphed into a way to educate the public about the work being done by National Guard members and others, he said.

"In a way, the Guard is like the Red Sox or the Patriots. We don’t know the players personally, but we feel a degree of familiarity," he said. "We cheer them on and feel a sense of pride when they do well, and when they don’t, we share their sorrow and sense of loss."

Two of those honored Friday served during the Persian Gulf War. Dillon, 29, was killed in a helicopter training flight over the Arabian Sea in October 1990; Chinburg, 26, was killed when his F-16 crashed in Saudi Arabia in January 1991.

Bernier, a 21-year-old combat medic, died in June 2011 at a hospital in Germany, three days after his unit came under attack in Afghanistan.

Geary, 20, was killed in Afghanistan in December 2010, a month before he was due to come home. Relatives said he had started training to be a marine when he was 14 by running and working out with military recruiters.

His mother, Nancy, said Friday that she was proud to accept her son’s award.

"He loved his country. He loved his family," she said. "He’d do it all over again."