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Honoring those who served Rochester Veterans Council brings city's many civic and veterans organizations together

Portsmouth Herald - 11/5/2017

ROCHESTER - On Veterans Day, the city comes together to thank those who answered the call of service and to recognize and remember those who lost their lives defending our freedom. Solemn services held around the city are an opportunity for all those who live in Rochester - veteran or not - to not think of the day as an ordinary day off from work or school, but a day to say thank you to a veteran.

Rochester's ties to military service run deep. Veterans native to the city have fought in every major war, many to never return after making the ultimate sacrifice. Others settled down here after they returned and started families and made this city their home.

Tasked with organizing services around the city is the Rochester Veterans Council. The group is a committee of the Mayor's Office and was formed in the 1970s to bring together many of the civic and veterans organizations throughout Rochester. Today, the council is made up of members of the American Legion Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, Legion Riders, American Legion Auxiliary, Sons of the American Legion, Victory Club, Club Victoire, Sons of Italy, the Historical Society, and the Rochester Police Department.

"We formed to help promote veterans affairs and support veterans in this city," said Gordon Oliver, the council's chaplain and information officer. "We have a lot of veterans we run into that are in need of services and have no idea where to go, so we lead them in the right direction."

When was the last time you visited Rochester Commons and noticed the veteran's monuments? Have you stopped to read the names of the soldiers and sailors from Rochester who fought in the world wars on the monument in front of City Hall?

Veterans Day is Saturday, Nov. 11. A ceremony at the Commons commences at 11 a.m. and is open to everyone to observe the laying of a wreath at the Rochester Veterans' Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action memorial, followed by the playing of taps on the bugle to remember those veterans who have passed away. Norm Sanborn Sr., a founding member of the Veterans Council, says this is a great way for parents to teach their children about the wars and sacrifices veterans have made.

"We see some kids who come to these ceremonies because they may have a relative who was a veteran, but a lot of kids don't know about these things," he said. "We see parents bring their kids here to teach them something about history and the wars."

"Younger kids today can't relate as much because a lot of them aren't affected by a parent or loved one off fighting in a war," Oliver said. "People need to learn and know about the importance of Veterans Day and that's a big part of where we come in."

On Friday, Nov. 10, the Veterans Council will talk to students at Rochester Middle School, a yearly ritual that is always a big hit at the school.

"When we go in there, they're very respectful and they really want to learn about what we tell them and the stories we share with them," Sanborn said of the seventh- and eighth-graders.

The public is invited to the Post Everlasting Ceremony at the United Methodist Church on South Main Street on Friday at 7 p.m. This non-denominational service recognizes members of all five military branches and is one of the larger turnouts in the city, with almost every pew occupied.

Sanborn said Veterans Day is also a good time to check in on a veteran you may know and see how they're doing and if they need help. Part of the mission of the Veterans Council is to help coordinate services for veterans and navigate the sometimes daunting path to get there.

"Sometimes the hardest part vets have in finding help or services is getting over their pride," he said. "They're a soldier or sailor and they think they should be self-sufficient."

Sanborn and Oliver say if you know someone who may need help with getting services at the Veterans Administration, medical care, financial assistance, long-term care or even replacing lost service medals, they should get in touch with the Veterans Council or one of the many military organizations service officers who will lead them in the right direction.

For more information on Veterans Day observances in the city, visit the city of Rochester's website at rochesternh.net, or the Rochester Veterans Council at rochesterveteranscouncil.vpweb.com.


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