Commander: Global War on Terrorism heroes among ‘our greatest generation’

As a new name was added to the Global War on Terrorism Monument in Hampton, N.H., during a rededication ceremony on Sept. 11, American Legion National Commander Dale Barnett included the group of engraved names among a previous generation of heroes.

“Two years ago, I read a book by Tom Brokaw,” Barnett said. “I share my admiration for him because he was an American Legion Boys Stater. But he described the World War II generation, the generation of my father, as the greatest generation. I’d like to take him to task a little bit because as I look at the monument, and I look at the names on the monument and the sacrifices that this generation made, I would also say that they are members of the greatest generation.”

The monument, which is located in front of American Legion Post 35 in Hampton, includes the names of 65 New Hampshire natives who died in military service since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Added on Friday was the name William “Blake” Marston, a Navy SEAL who died in a parachute training accident in Florida earlier this year.

“His sacrifice is a reminder to all of the inherent dangers of military serive, whether stateside or abroad,” Barnett said. “'A gifted athlete with laser beam focus' was how his baseball coach at Derryfield High School described him in the New Hampshire Union Leader. ‘Laser beam focus’ is what we need from our elected leaders as we resolve ourselves to ensure that the sacrifices made by our men and women advance our primary goal to eliminate terrorism and to protect our communities and way of life.”

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan also spoke at the observance. “We are here today to rededicate this memorial monument. Unveiling one new name of a man who gave his life to preserve our freedom,” she said. “We come together to honor all of those whose names are etched in this memorial, to thank them and to remember them because they made the ultimate sacrifice for this great country. We owe them a debt of gratitude that can never truly be repaid, but it is a debt that we must always strive to honor.”

Post 35 Commander G. Berkley Bennett, an airline pilot, started the observance by reflecting on the pivotal moment in which the Global War on Terrorism was brought to the United States. “Today, September 11, is the anniversary of the deadliest attack on American soil in our nation’s history,” he said. “A day in which 3,000 people perished in terrorist attacks in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in a field near Shanksville, Pa.

“We gather here to honor our heroes, our sons of New Hampshire, who gave their lives for our freedom since that terrible day 14 years ago. Soon after that fateful day, our country’s military mobilized quickly and there was no shortage of patriotic volunteers from our great state.”

Chris Zigler, a Hampton police officer and an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, also addressed the guests, which included family members of the fallen. “I remember thinking how honored I am to have been there,” Zigler said. “We are all warriors doing what warriors are meant to do. We stand up for those who can’t. For those patriots that made the ultimate sacrifice for not only our nation but for the brothers and sisters that stood beside them, I am forever grateful. I thank them for giving me the opportunity to continue my service to the people that we defend and that we swore to protect.”

Barnett pointed out that the men were not symbols of policy but bravery. “Whether they served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard or reserves, these men were our protectors," he said. "They were defending America domestically and abroad. They put their country first. Simply put, they are heroes. And we owe a debt to those who raised them, the communities that produced them, and the people who loved them.”