Hamlin service

Members of the Hamlin family sit in silence during the memorial service Thursday for Staff Sgt. Christoper Hamlin.

Although it has been six years since Staff Sgt. Chris Hamlin walked the halls of North Laurel High School as a student, the student body had the opportunity to remember the fallen hero who was killed while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Led by the North Laurel Junior Naval ROTC, Hamlin’s life and service to his country was remembered Friday in a Two-Bell Ceremony in front of the school, during which the flag was lowered to half-staff.

As family, friends, faculty and students looked on, NJROTC Cadet Kenna Vanourney explained the significance of the table upon which had been placed a red rose, a glass of water and a container of salt.

“On this table sits a red rose to signify the blood that our fallen soldier, Staff Sgt. Chris Hamlin has shed; a crystal glass of water to quench his thirst for freedom; and salt to remind him of the pain he would feel lest we forget him,” Vanourney explained.

As the crowd of onlookers bowed their heads, two bells rang out, which Vanourney explained is the traditional end of day in the U.S. Navy. The bells tolled in honor of Hamlin and the faith he had in his country.

Vanourney, a senior at North Laurel, was recently accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy. During her time at North Laurel, she said Hamlin would regularly visit the NJROTC cadets and talk to them about his life in the military.

“Knowing him and that he died serving in the military, it doesn’t give me any second thoughts about going to the academy,” Vanourney said.

Dylan Brown, a junior who plays trumpet in the band, played “Taps.”

Brown said it was an honor to be asked.

“It was an opportunity to honor a fallen comrade, but I was more proud to be able to play for the family,” Brown said.

The ceremony ended with the North Laurel Choir singing the Army Service Song and “God Bless the USA.” Commander Kenneth Vanourney, sponsor of the NJROTC program, then gave some final remarks.

“Know that your loss is also a loss to this school, community and nation,” Vanourney said.

John Hamlin, Hamlin’s uncle, said the family never tried to talk Chris into leaving the military, knowing that he enjoyed his life in the military and believed in what he was doing.

Zola Hamlin, Hamlin’s grandmother, said the family appreciated what the school was doing to honor her grandson.

“There was no better person than Chris,” Zola Hamlin said. “He had in his mind in high school that he wanted to serve in the military.”

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