PELHAM, NH, USA U.S. Army SGT, HHC, 1ST BATTALION, 66TH ARMOR REGIMENT, FORT HOOD, TX BAGHDAD, IRAQ 06/04/2006
As the hearse carrying Army Sergeant Daniel Gionet’s casket rolled by Pelham High School, hundreds of students lined the sunny street Friday to pay their respects to the graduate killed in Iraq.
It was the same scene outside the town’s elementary and middle schools — pupils holding American flags formed a human guardrail, watching silently as the motorcade made its way to St. Patrick’s Church for Gionet’s funeral. American flags also adorned the church, where mourners filled the pews and a downstairs room where a video screen was set up. The service was followed by burial at Gibson cemetery in Pelham.
Gionet, a newlywed and Army medic, was killed June 4 when an explosion hit his tank in Taji, Iraq. He was 23, and the sixth New Hampshire serviceman killed overseas this year. His widow, Katrina, is 19. They married last November, and he was expected back home in July for a 15-day leave.
Family and friends remembered the young man for his sense of humor, big bear hugs and devotion to family.
“Danny was just an awesome human being. He was a giver,” said Joe Connors, Gionet’s high school baseball coach. “He was the first guy to take a new kid under his wing. He was a selfless soldier.”
That included Gionet’s final moments, Connors said. Military officials speaking to Gionet’s family after his death said Gionet, unaware he was mortally wounded, told medics to treat his lieutenant first, Connors said.
“He assured his family [he] was safe, but of course nothing is safe in war,” said the Rev. Robert Guillemette.
Gionet was killed during his second overseas tour. He had served as a cook at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan but re-enlisted because he wanted to do more, his family said.
“He said ‘Pledge Allegiance’ not only to the flag, but to yourself. Don’t forget to breathe deep, live your dreams and reach for your own stars,” Gionet’s sister, Alycia, told mourners Friday.
Gionet also is survived by his mother, Denise Gionet, of Pelham, father, Daniel Gionet, of Lowell, brother Darren, 20, and grandparents Ernest and Theresa Trepanier, of Pelham. He was born in Lowell but moved to Pelham with his mother after the fifth grade. He graduated from Pelham High school in 2001.
A fallen soldier is being honored in New Hampshire, as the state dedicated a section of Route 4 in Danbury in his name. Sergeant Dan Gionet, an Army medic, was killed in Iraq a year ago Monday. On Sunday, his mother, Denise Gionet, place a wreath of flowers and an American flag on a new dedication sign on the side of the road.
The state has designated Route 4 as a Purple Heart Trail route, meaning sections of the road are dedicated to those killed in the military. Along the road, from Lebanon to Portsmouth, are the names of more than 20 New Hampshire service members killed in wars ranging from World War I to Iraq.