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May 30, 2012

Derry Rotarians honor area veterans

DERRY — Roland Routhier climbed aboard the antique military Jeep and sat quietly for a few moments.

"It's been a long time since I sat in one of these," he called out.

The World War II Navy veteran served four years in the Pacific Islands, working as a medic.

Sitting in the Jeep made him remember.

Routhier was one of about 100 veterans attending a special dinner celebration on May 24, hosted jointly by the Derry Rotary and Derry Village Rotary clubs.

Veterans of all wars gathered at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Derry for the special night.

A huge American flag hung from a Derry fire truck, welcoming the vets and their guests to the event.

Guest speakers included Gov. John Lynch, U.S. Navy Capt. Lynn Blankenbeker and Congressman Frank Guinta, R-N.H.

Lynch told the veterans he appreciated all they have done.

"I love veterans," he said.

The governor stopped by individual tables to greet veterans and look over their special hats, caps, and other wartime memorabilia they may have brought along.

Some wore their hats proudly, ships' names embroidered in bright colors. Some brought photos and asked for the governor's autograph.

Jim Bilotta, a Pearl Harbor survivor, chatted with Lynch and introduced his wife of 65 years, Edie.

"I have enormous regard and admiration for the vets and their families," Lynch said. "We live in a great country because of you."

Rotarians are no strangers to honoring area veterans and their service.

In 2009, Derry Rotarians sponsored a trip to Washington, D.C., for 17 local World War II veterans to visit the memorial erected in their honor.

The following year, Korean War vets were honored. Last year, it was a night for veterans of the Vietnam War.

This year, it was time to honor all veterans.

"Today, right here, right now, we are honoring amazing, living veterans," Derry Rotarian and retired U.S. Army Col. Craig Bulkley said.

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