Fosters - Legion Gives DesRosiers Heartfelt Tribute
By ROBERT M. COOK
Gary DesRosiers, the outgoing state commander of the Sons of the American Legion, can definitely relate on some level to the challenges faced by returning combat veterans who have lost limbs and sometimes hope.
DesRosiers shared some details of how he has had to rise above some of his recent health problems during his testimonial Saturday evening at the American Legion Post 7.
Four years ago, DesRosiers told American Legion members, he had serious abdominal surgery and then more surgery within the past year.
"It likely left me with some major complications that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life," DesRosier said. "But when the going gets tough, the tough get going."
DesRosiers never let his own health problems deter him from completing his chosen project when he assumed command of the New Hampshire Detachment of the Sons of the American Legion in June 2007.
He wanted to raise money for a national program called the Wounded Warriors Project to help returning Iraq war and Afghanistan veterans from New Hampshire who need prosthetic limbs and counseling to heal from the battlefield and lead productive lives.
Before his testimonial began, DesRosiers said he had raised $6,500 and hoped to continue raising funds through the end of his one-year term in June. Several American Legion officials who took the podium to congratulate DesRosiers for his selfless work gave him envelopes containing checks of as much as $200 each to go toward his project.
DesRosiers said the project matters so much to these men and women who have made so many sacrifices in the war on terrorism, as well as to their families.
He said many returning veterans who do not get into the project end up committing suicide, or addicted to drugs and alcohol and homeless.
Besides helping these veterans with new prosthetic arms or legs, DesRosiers said the project "gives them a new reason to live."
Several speakers commended DesRosiers for his efforts as state commander and expressed some regret that he chose to step down as state commander.
"It's been great working with you over the many years we've worked together," said American Legion Department Commander Chuck Lewis. "It's hard to believe it's coming to an end."
New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery Director Roger DesJardins also presented DesRosiers with a gift from the staff at the Boscawen cemetery, along with a heartfelt compliment.
"My wife, Barbara, and I were blessed with two beautiful daughters, and if we were to have a son, he would be just like Gary," DesJardins said.
Former Republican New Hampshire Congressman Jeb Bradley said "a grateful nation" is thankful for the service DesRosiers provided to the country and New Hampshire veterans.
"Gary, you're a great friend and a great American," said Bradley, who lost his bid for re-election in November 2006 to incumbent Democratic New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, of Rochester.
DesRosiers later returned Bradley's compliment by pledging his support for Bradley's bid to win back his seat in November. He noted that Bradley helped pass numerous bills in the U.S. House of Representatives that helped New Hampshire veterans and their families.
"I need you, we need you and, most importantly, our military needs you. Godspeed, my friend," DesRosiers told Bradley.
American Legion Post 7 Commander Rolande Patnode also presented DesRosiers with a citation from Gov. John Lynch thanking him for his service. Before the testimonial, Patnode also extended high praise to his friend and fellow Legion officer.
"Gary is the type of guy when he shines, he makes everyone else shine," Patnode said. "He does everything from the heart, not for monetary gain or recognition. Gary gives 120 percent."
Before the testimonial, DesRosiers said he is still the general manager of the American Legion Post 7 and a 25-year member of the Sons of the American Legion at the Rochester post. He said he is not sure what his future plans will be after he ends his year as state commander in June.