Jul 2, 2016 5:30 PM
BOSCAWEN — More than a hundred veterans gathered at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery on Saturday to honor the memories of those who were killed or went missing during the Vietnam War.
Twelve years ago, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated at the cemetery. That year and every year since, Manchester resident and Vietnam Veterans of America member Bob Williams has held a ceremony to honor his fellow veterans.
“I know they didn’t get the proper respect they deserved way back then, even in burial they didn’t get their proper respects,” Williams said. “I’m showing them some respect. They deserve it.”
Williams served in the Air Force in Vietnam for one year, between 1967 and 1968.
“I’m not a hero,” he added. “I’m just a person who doesn’t want to forget his brothers, and that’s what I’m doing.”
The memorial honors New Hampshire Vietnam War veterans from all branches of the military. At its entrance, all 227 Granite State natives who were killed, a prisoner of war or declared missing in action are listed.
The names were also read aloud during Saturday’s ceremony. Six of them went missing in action, and to this day, no one knows what happened to them.
Gov. Maggie Hassan also attended the annual event to thank those in attendance for their service.
“I am particularly grateful today to have the opportunity to honor the people who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, for our way of life, for our freedom,” she said.
She also echoed organizers and veterans, saying they weren’t treated the way they should’ve years ago, despite the sacrifice they made to serve.
“We didn’t say thank you,” Hassan added. “We didn’t welcome you home properly when you returned. It is now our job to do that each and every day.”
Many of the attendees were motorcyclists in clubs, like the Christian Motorcycle Association, the Honorable Few Marine Corps League, the Rolling Thunder, the Combat Vets Association, the Purple Heart Riders and more.
Kevin Ridley recently moved to Fremont and is a part of the Veterans of Vietnam Motorcycle Club and a Patriot Guard Rider. He said surrounding himself with other veterans has helped them all heal.
“When you meet up with a brother that’s gone through partly what you’ve been through, it really makes you feel a lot better about what you went through,” Ridley said. “I’ve noticed with the brothers in the club too, that when you can sit down and talk to the other brothers that are having problems or post-traumatic stress, that it’s helped them a lot.”
Williams said he’ll continue to hold an anniversary ceremony at the cemetery the first Saturday of July for as long as he can to honors his friends.
He said the response he gets, every year, makes him emotional.
“They’re all my brothers, and they show up," Williams said. "I’m proud they come here with me. We have to take care of each other. We don’t have any other choice.”
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