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November 9, 2012

A moving tribute

Salem students honor veterans

SALEM — Ralph DeLong has seen a lot in his 79 years.

The U.S. Air Force veteran has been deployed to Japan and served in the Korean War.

But when the Lawrence man and approximately 70 other military veterans were honored for their sacrifice during a special breakfast at Woodbury School yesterday, what he saw was almost a little too much to handle.

It had been more than 60 years since the Air Force veteran left Korea. To be recognized decades later was something special, DeLong said, proudly wearing his 187th Airborne cap.

“It was unbelievable,” he said.

DeLong’s granddaughter, 11-year-old Brianna Brown, happened to be among the several hundred schoolchildren who sang, read essays and thanked the veterans for their service. They were joined by Gov. John Lynch and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

But when DeLong suddenly saw a photo of himself as a 17-year-old recruit during a video montage of local veterans, it was almost too much for him to bear.

“It was something else,” he said. “I got too emotional.”

DeLong was seated near another veteran, who also saw a photo of himself from what seemed like a lifetime ago.

“I said, ‘Do you remember being that young?’” DeLong said.

Air Force veteran Enrico Casaletto, 78, of Salem was also moved by the ceremony.

“I think it was fabulous,” he said. “It really made us feel important.”

The school gymnasium was packed as the students honored their special guests, who enjoyed a breakfast of fruit, muffins and doughnuts as they sat at tables with red, white and blue tablecloths.

A small American flag stood in the middle of each table.

The Salem High School ROTC provided a presentation of colors, followed by the middle school chorus singing the national anthem and the students leading the crowd in the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

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