Ayotte presents medals to widow of WW II veteran

BERLIN -- Jeannette Theriault eyes teared up yesterday as U.S. Marine Major Jack Roma presented her with her late husband's military medals earned during four years of service in World War II. U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, whose office arranged for the awarding of the medals, said she was pleased to be able to present Theriault with her husband's Combat Action Medal, Navy Unit Commendation ribbon bar, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. American Campaign Medal, Asiatic/Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze star, and the World War II Victory Medal.
Joseph "Jerry" Theriault enlisted in the Marine Corps at 19 years of age and served four years, rising to the rank of corporal. He served with the 5th Amphibious Corps, 4th Marine Division and participated in the amphibious assaults on Kwajalein, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. Theriault was present on Iwo Jima during the flag raising on Mount Suribachi memorialized in the famous photograph by Joe Rosenthal.
"He said he saw the flag go up but he wasn't close enough to touch it," Mrs. Theriault said.
Theriault was returning home after his tour of duty when his duffle bag containing all his medals was stolen. Only his discharge papers, which he carried in his wallet, remained.
Jerry Theriault worked in the local paper mill until his retirement in 1987. He helped organize what is now the Northeast Credit Union in Berlin where he served in various capacities until he stepped down in 2002 after 42 years on the credit union's board of directors. He was also an active outdoorsman who enjoyed skiing, hiking, and canoeing.
Mrs. Theriault said her husband talked a lot over the years about his military service and expressed his sadness that his medals had been stolen. She said they never tried to get them replaced because they didn't know how to go about it.
"He never tried (to get them replaced) but he talked about it all the time... He was so proud of being in the service," she said.
The couple had been married 47 years when Jerry Theriault passed away in August 2011. After his death, Mrs. Theriault mentioned his medals to his niece, Linda Lafleur and her husband Dick. The two contacted Mike Scala in Ayotte's Berlin office for help in getting the medals replaced.
Ayotte yesterday said she was pleased to be able to award the medals to Mrs. Theriault. She said the freedoms the country enjoys today are because of the service and sacrifice of men like her husband.
"I'm sure he's looking down from a better place," Ayotte said.
The call to order ceremony was performed by Marine Major Jack Roma and First Sgt. David Elliot, both of Londonderry. Also present for the ceremony was Theriault's son Dennis and a number of family members.