Manchester V.A.’s Memorial Day Observance to be Held Online

MANCHESTER, NH — The Veterans Administration Manchester Healthcare System (MHSVA) will be holding its Memorial Day Observance online this year, as a precaution to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Many veterans who use the VA Manchester V.A. Medical Center (VAMC) and related facilities belong to more vulnerable populations, such as seniors, and many have been isolated during the Pandemic.

The MHSVA believes that an online observance is a great way to reach veterans and expand the audience for the remembrance. By presenting the observance ceremony online, the MHSVA hopes to reach many more veterans than does the traditional ceremony that is held in person on the grounds of the VA Manchester VAMC.

The Memorial Day Observance honors New Hampshire veterans who are no longer with us, including the 2,832 vets who passed last year.

The ceremony has been recorded and will be available online on beginning May 31, 2021. To view and participate online, go to www.Manchester.VA.gov or on FaceBook at @ManchesterVAMC.

The observance will be archived and available to all veterans and the public thereafter.

Observance Ceremony

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Corey Beem, the executive assistant to VA Manchester VA-MHS Director Kevin Forrest, is the host of the ceremony. U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, and Congressman Chris Pappas (District 1) and Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (District 2) will be part of the observance, via taped addresses.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu also will be part of the ceremony, in spirit, as there will be a reading of his Memorial Day 2021 proclamation by Julie Vose, the Associate Director of the MHSVA

In his opening remarks, Corey Beem said that part of the process of honoring veterans on Memorial Day is “to recommit to being forever mindful that the liberties we enjoy today are because of the service and sacrifices of our Nation’s military.”

MHSVA Director Kevin Forrest was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, where he was in healthcare management. His entire professional life, including the U.S. Army and his post-retirement career with the Veterans Healthcare Administration,VA, has involved overseeing healthcare facilities for military personnel and veterans.

In his remarks, Director Forrest said, “Memorial Day is set aside to honor and remember military personnel who have died in the performance of their duties while serving in the United States Armed Forces.”

He addressed how COVID has impacted the veterans community.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us, as many have been missing their loved ones in isolation. We’re making strides in addressing the pandemic and getting back to normal by vaccinating our veterans, their loved ones, and caregivers.

“It’s my hope that our collective efforts will bring us together — face to face and soon — for support, celebration, and a new beginning.”

Director Forrest also honored recognized his employees who also experienced were lost to first-hand the loss and challenges related to COVID-19. During the pandemic, the MHSVA supported 18 deployments of its personnel into the community to support veterans and civilians as part of Veteran Administration’s Fourth Mission.

The Fourth Mission tasks the V.A. with “support[ing] national, state, and local emergency management, public health, safety and homeland security efforts.”

The Veterans Healthcare Administration has been one of the innovators in telehealth. This enabled the MHSVA to deploy teleconferencing technology to deliver healthcare where access to care was limited.

Telehealth technology, according to Director Forrest, “allows us to be together to find comfort, connect, and remember.”

The Meaning of Memorial Day

Manchester Healthcare System -V.A. Director Kevin Forrest talked of his experience with service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and what it taught him.

“I’ve learned that the loss of one life has a deep impact that goes beyond that veteran’s immediate family, impacting their loved ones, friends, neighbors and communities.”

Director Forrest cited the life and death of a Marine as a profile in courage.

“When I was at the burn center at Fort Sam Houston, this Marine fought horrific blast injuries for over a year, unselfishly helping other veterans deal with their injuries, before succumbing to his wounds. To this day, I serve mindful of this Marine’s service, sacrifice, and impact on others.”

The Marine’s reaching out to comfort and care for his fellow wounded service personnel illuminates the sense of community veterans, their families and their caregivers create and share. The community forged by users of military and veteran healthcare is vital for healing.

Memorial Day also is part of that healing process by which members of the military and veterans communities heal. It helps family members process those family members who were lost while serving in harm’s way.

And it helps serving military personnel and veterans process the loss of their battle buddies. “Battle buddy” is a new term used in the military, but the gist of the tag — your partner who has your back — is as old as combat itself.

“As we survive the loss of our loved ones,” Director Forrest said, “we honor them by preserving their legacy and being there for one another.

“For over 150 years, we’ve set aside this day to remember service members in death and celebrate their lives. Today’s ceremony offers a remembrance and an opportunity for V.A.VA Manchester Healthcare System’s entire workforce to share in your sorrow and celebrate the life of your loved one.”

MHSVA Manchster employee Denise Gionet is part of the observance. As s Gold Star Mother, she had the honor of placing a wreath in remembrance of military personnel who no longer are with us in the Manchester V.A. Medical Center’s Memorial Hall.

Memorial Hall features pictures of military personnel from the region who lost their lives defending their country.

Denise’s son is one of those unique warriors who, after serving a combat tour, reenlisted as tactical medical personnel and dedicated themselves to saving lives. After serving in Afghanistan in 2003–4, Daniel Gionet served in Iraq as a medic. The 23 year-old newlywed was lost in Iraq in 2006, taken by an improvised explosive device just weeks before he was due to return home.

“Denise is a Manchester VA team member and walks the Memorial Hall every day,” Corey Beem explained. “She says they are all her sons and daughters and they are each remembered.”

“Memorial Day is personal at the Manchester V.A.”

Ryan Duncan, the Chief of Chaplain Services, gave the invocation and the closing prayer.

The MHSVA is looking forward to returning to an in-person Memorial Day in 2022.

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