In Chesterfield, 'A day for all veterans'

Monday November 12, 2012

CHESTERFIELD, N.H. -- There were those who never came home, and there were those who came home but were never the same.

Dot Hunt believes her late brother, who fought in Vietnam, falls into the latter category. So her thoughts turned to him -- and to all returning soldiers -- during a Veterans Day ceremony Sunday.

"America has a deep moral obligation to these fine men and fine women," said Hunt, chaplain for Chesterfield American Legion Post 86.

Hunt, who served in the Navy and is a retired nurse, led a ceremony organized by the legion post on the Justice Harlan Fiske Stone Pedestrian Bridge on Route 9 in West Chesterfield, N.H.

A small crowd turned out to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, pray and pay tribute on the windy bridge spanning the Connecticut River.

"This day is dedicated to all of you who answered the call for service," Hunt said.

She chose to highlight Vietnam veterans on Sunday, asking a handful of those vets to step forward from the audience and noting that they had fought under unusually difficult social and political circumstances.

"They served while some avoided service altogether," Hunt said, adding that Vietnam veterans also served "without the full moral support" of a nation divided by the war.

Gary Zamore of Chesterfield was among the Vietnam veterans in the crowd Sunday. He fought in Vietnam as a member of the Marine Corps in 1968 and 1969 and suffered gunshot wounds in the arm, chest and back.

"I was one of the lucky ones," he said. "I survived. There were a lot who didn't make it."

While noting that Sunday was "a day for all veterans," he appreciated Hunt's gesture toward those who fought in Vietnam.

"It's nice that we are recognized," Zamore said. "We've been kind of forgotten."

Hunt has personal experience with the plight of Vietnam veterans. Her brother, Rick Valley, returned safely home but had suffered mental trauma that, she believes, haunted him for the rest of his life.

"When he came back, he was pretty messed up -- a changed man," Hunt said, adding that her brother never took advantage of governmental programs that may have helped him.

Hunt speculates that her brother, who died of a heart attack at age 48, "felt as though he had too much pride to even seek help from the VA."

She said the experience "raised an interest in me" regarding veterans and the services that can help them transition into life after war. She believes the government has made strides toward improving those services and their availability.

"I think we've turned it around quite a bit," Hunt said. "And I think we've saved a lot of lives."

Sunday's ceremony included an empty chair dedicated to prisoners of war and soldiers who went missing in action. And it ended with state Rep. Steven Lindsey, a Democrat representing Cheshire District 3, reading the famous World War I poem "In Flanders Fields."

Afterward, attendees dropped flowers over the bridge railing into the Connecticut as a symbol of remembrance.

"This is a real community," Lindsey said as the crowd dispersed. "This is what preserves who we are -- not Facebook or some chat room you go to."


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