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Gold Star mother Natalie Healy calls for national Global War on Terrorism memorial

EXETER — Gold Star mother Natalie Healy said the time is long overdue for the American government to dedicate a memorial to the men and women of the armed services killed fighting the Global War on Terrorism.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., discussed the topic with Healy over Zoom and the conversation ran live on Hassan’s Facebook page Wednesday. Hassan said the plan is to construct the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) somewhere on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., so all Americans can, “take a moment to think about the people who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.”

“Having a memorial installed will demonstrate how we feel about our patriots and fallen heroes,” Healy said. “I would love to have all the Gold Star families be blessed. You want people to see that memorial in Washington and realize that they were individuals.”

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan discusses the future plans to construct a Global War on Terrorism memorial in Washington, D.C. with Gold Star Mother Natalie Healy of Exeter on a Zoom call. Healy's son Daniel was killed in Afghanistan in 2005.

Hassan has co-sponsored the Global War on Terrorism Location Act with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, which identifies the Constitution Gardens, West Potomac Park and the John F. Kennedy Hockey Fields as possible sites for the memorial.

“One of the things that’s important about the whole issue of honoring veterans, Gold Star Families and fallen service members, is that it’s not a political issue,” said Hassan, who was a one-time political opponent of Healy, defeating her for a state Senate seat in 2006. “Natalie and I may have differences on policy and what government should and shouldn’t do… But when it comes to keeping our country safe and honoring our fallen heroes, there’s no daylight between the two of us.”

Healy’s son Daniel, a Navy SEAL, was killed in action during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan in 2005. Daniel Healy’s helicopter was shot down attempting to rescue a SEAL reconnaissance team. She started the Dan Healy Foundation in his memory, which puts on the Dan Healy Memorial 5K to raise money to support Exeter-area single-mothers, award scholarships to Exeter High School students pursuing careers in the trades or the military, and assists Seacoast veterans.

Healy said because of her son’s mission was captured in the book “Lone Survivor” by former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, played by Mark Wahlberg in a 2013 movie of the same name, her son’s memory is more front and center than many other casualties from the GWOT. She wants the memory of all of those lost to be as well-known as her son’s.

Hassan said one dynamic that makes a future GWOT memorial unique is it is being planned while the war is still being fought.

“Usually, we build these memorials well after the fact, and the next generation or two generations later builds memorials to previous generations,” Hassan said. “Sen. Ernst and I think it’s very important to erect this memorial now. We do still know that the same forces that came together to attack us on 9/11, we may defeat them in one place, but they continue to try to reorganize and grow in other places.”

Healy said the Seacoast community does a good job paying tribute to the soldiers killed in the GWOT, in large part thanks to Hampton American Legion Post 35’s annual 9/11 service. The Post 35 erected its own GWOT memorial and each year adds the names of New Hampshire residents who have been killed.

“There’s only been one or two years where names haven’t been added,” Healy said. “It’s always painful to hear about any of our service members being killed, but I’m pragmatic about the make-up of the terrorists. It’s a long war and when we don’t give up by maintaining our strength, they can’t defeat us.”

Healy said even though the Global War on Terror is still being waged, with no certainty when it might end, it's critical to build the memorial so the war’s veterans have a place to remember their fallen comrades, similar to how the black wall of the Vietnam War Memorial became a place of healing for many veterans of that conflict.

“Seeing the Vietnam memorial is such an emotional experience and I think it gave those veterans a healing feeling when they saw it,” Healy said. “Certain things touch people where they maybe didn’t think they needed to be touched, and that will happen with this memorial as well. The veterans of the Global War on Terror need a similar place where they can connect with their buddies they lost.”