It doesn’t get easier.
Every time Clinton Springer attends any kind of ceremony -- big or small, short or long -- honoring his son, the pain of losing him hits hard. Clinton E. Springer II was 21 when he died in Kabul, Afghanistan Sept. 24, 2010. His father was on hand in the MUB Nov. 4 when the junior Springer’s name and those of three others were added to a plaque honoring fallen N.H. soldiers.
The brief ceremony took place in the Memorial Room, the official war memorial of the State of New Hampshire.
“Every time,” Clinton Springer said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “It hits me every time. You’d think it would get easier but it doesn’t.”
Clinton Springer II, a private first class with the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y., was a 2007 graduate of Contoocook Valley Regional High School. He had been due to come home in December 2010.
Pfc. Andrew D. Stevens, 20, of Stratham, died March 11, 2003, in a Black Hawk helicopter crash during an Operation Iraqi Freedom training exercise in Fort Drum, N.Y. Stevens was assigned to Company C, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, NY.
Pfc. Buddy McLain, 24, died Nov. 29, 2010, in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when an insurgent attacked his unit with small-arms fire. McLain, who lived in Berlin as a child, was a cavalry scout with the U.S. Army 2nd Squadron, 61st Cavalry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
U.S. Army combat medic Spc. Nicholas P. Bernier died June 25, 2011, from wounds he received in Kherwar, Afghanistan on June 22 in a battle with enemy forces. Bernier, a 2007 graduate of Exeter High School, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
“We don’t join the military for our own good; there’s a higher calling,” said Maj. Joshua Stringer, commander of UNH’s Army ROTC. “It’s something we should cherish, appreciate and recognize. The soldiers we are recognizing today had that calling. And we are grateful for that.”
To Springer and the other family members present, Stringer said,” I hope you’re proud. I know I am.”
The Rev. Larry Brickner-Wood, chaplain and executive director of Campus Ministry, referred to the Memorial Room as sacred ground.
“This is a heart space,” Brickner-Wood said. “So much on campus is head space. This is a heart space.” Of the soldiers’ sacrifice, he added, “The least we can do is hold them in our hearts, always. Always.”
The event was organized by the UNH Veteran Student Organization, the UNH Air Force and Army ROTC programs, and United Campus Ministry. The Memorial Room bears the names of New Hampshire residents killed in military action from World War I through Iraq and Afghanistan.