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Veterans honored at Rolling Thunder's Operation Hat Trick

Pete Toner, 74, of South Acworth, member of both the Claremont and Brattleboro, Vt., Rolling Thunder chapters, attends an Operation Hat Trick event at Keene High School's Foster Field. (Meghan Pierce)

KEENE— Military veterans were honored at an Operation Hat Trick Day at Keene High School’s Foster Field on Wednesday afternoon. Veterans motorcycle group Rolling Thunder from both New Hampshire chapters as well as chapters from Vermont and Massachusetts attended the ceremony, which took place before the varsity softball game between the Keene High School Blackbirds and the Colonels of Brattleboro High School. Rolling Thunder also brought a MIA/POW chair that will stand empty at Keene High School sporting events, said Keene High School Athletic Director Mike Atkins. “This is going to go to most if not all of our home games,” Atkins said. Blackbirds coach Jim Coppo organized the event. “Operation Hat Trick Day was started in 2008 to honor Navy SEALS Nate Hardy and Mike Koch and all veterans and active-duty service members. Hardy and Koch trained together, fought together and died together in Iraq in 2008,” Coppo said. Both are buried, side by side, in Arlington National Cemetery, he said. Coppo also invited local veterans to ceremoniously throw the first pitches of the game, including U.S. Army veteran and Keene Mayor Kendall Lane. Also throwing out a first pitch was state trooper and U.S. Army veteran John Lucero, Swanzey police officer and U.S. Air Force veteran Mark Chamberlain, Keene police officer and U.S. Army veteran Kurt Barger and Keene High School staff member and U.S. Army veteran John Goode. “It’s important that we get the word out and important that we get everybody back here,” said Pete Toner, 74, of South Acworth, a member of both the Claremont and Brattleboro, Vt., Rolling Thunder. N.H. Rolling Thunder Chapter 2 out of Claremont hosted the event, but was joined by many other chapters, including N.H. Chapter 1 of Epping. “The chair represents a chair that will never be filled,” said Jon Dion, of Rolling Thunder NH Chapter 1. “All VFWs have a chair set up, for a missing man, a missing man chair. … Any public place that would like a chair, we will get them a chair. Some do chairs, some do park benches. However they want to represent the MIA/POW cause, we will do it.”

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