Hero's sister sees Memorial Day 'with new eyes'

Nearly 300 attend Rye observance honoring those who 'purchased freedom'

Jack Driscoll

Photo by Don Osborne, Rye Reflections
The sun played a major role in Rye's Memorial Day this year, needing several days to dry out the Central Cemetery area where the observance is traaditionally held and then bursting through just in time for the parade and moving ceremony.

Featured guest and speaker this year was Shannon Keane, whose brother, Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel Healy, a Navy SEAL who was one of 16 killed during a rescue mission when their Chinook helicopter crashed last year.  Daniel grew up in Exeter and summered in Rye where he has relatives.

Photo by Judy Underwood, Rye Reflections
Shannon Keane, sister of deceased Navy SEAL Daniel Healy of Exeter, speaks during Rye ceremony.
"They were his men and...that was just what he had to do," Keane said in describing her brother's sense of loyalty.

His death has changed her attitude about Memorial Day, she said.. "It used to be a day off, an excuse to have a barbecue or party...Now I look at Memorial Day with new eyes," she added

The family has been in the forefront of trying to raise sensitivity in this country about the dangers of the Taliban.  Healy's mother, Natalie, has made appearances on national television, led a protest against Yale and was Memorial Day speaker this year in Hampton, Hampton Falls, North Hampton and Greenland.

Rye’s parade, culminating in the Presentation of Colors, was led by the Dover Police Department Mounted Patrol and included the New Hampshire Police Association Pipe and Drum corps, the Rye Police and Fire Departments, the Winnacunnet Marine ROTC Color Guard, veterans and Girl and Boy Scouts.

Family of veterans (from left): son Paul, daughter Donna and father Reginald Wright.

Annual highlights of the ceremony are the poetry and poster contests. Winning entries were displayed, and winners received prizes.  Poster winners this year were Sara Gardner for Grades K-1, Elizabeth Cole for Grades 2-3 and Jack Chace for Grades 4-5.  Best poem contest winners were Chloe Walton, Grade 6, and Lisa Harning, Grade 7. Both read their poems to an appreciative audience of nearly 300.

The Seacoast Memorial VFW Post #8942, which co-sponsored the contests with the Town of Rye, was also the organizer of the event, with Commander Jim Cullen in the lead role. (The VFW Post meets monthly at the Junior High School.)

A variety of organizations and individuals contributed to the ceremony itself and the preparation, with Lee Arthur and the Rye Recreation Department handling the program and planning. Music was by Karrie Burnett, who received an enthusiastic response to her singing and keyboard playing. Representatives of the St. Theresa Church Men's Club served as Parade Marshals, Rev. Terry Shannon, pastor of the Rye Congregational Church, presented the invocation and Rev. Maurice D. Lavigne, pastor of St. Theresa Church, gave the benediction.  Taps were played by seventh grader Camden Latimer.  The speaker system was set up by Kevin Schladenhauffen.  Philbrick’s Sales and Services provided a generator.  The Rye Historical Society handled refreshments.

Beginning at 8:50 a.m., the carillon at the Rye Congregational Church set the tone with 10 minutes of patriotic music.

The back page of the program summed up the sense of the day as follows: “Those we honored today purchased freedom.  It is important that we mourn them, but it is more important that we honor their service and the lessons they taught.”

("Rye Reflections" photos by Judy Underwood and Don Osborne.)

June 2006