Pelham High School Alumni

Pelham, New Hampshire (NH)

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Daniel R. Gionet

Daniel R. Gionet

Class of 2001

Eulogy for Dan Gionet
Written by Joe Connors

Dan Gionet was a SELFLESS SOLDIER,
And not just in the Army, but in the way he lived his life.

I’d like to start by asking everyone here in this church who knew Danny personally to please close their eyes… and picture Dan’s face for just ten seconds; not from those military pictures that we’ve been looking at the past few days, but from YOUR personal interactions with HIM…
He’s smiling, isn’t he?…..
Dan had the ability to bring a smile to everyone’s face, because of the way he was, and smiles are contagious, and he always had one…
Dan Gionet was a SELFLESS SOLDIER.

My name is Joe Connors, and I was Dan’s varsity baseball coach at Pelham High School, and I’ve never in my life been as humbled or scared in my life as when I was asked to stand up here and speak of Dan’s life as I knew him.
I’ve received all kinds of calls from the press over that past few weeks, and they were looking for a story about Dan and baseball…
They wanted to know if Dan was a ‘first team all state player’…
He wasn’t.
“Did you win any championships with Dan?”
“No, we didn’t.”
“Then what can you tell me about Dan? Is there anything that made Dan special?”
“Yes, I can tell you a lot about Dan…”
Over Dan’s junior and senior years combined, Dan played a TOTAL of ten innings.
He had the misfortune, if you can call it that, of catching behind one of the best catchers we’ve ever had at Pelham, and he just happened to be in the same grade. But that never bothered Dan… of if it did, he never let on.
Danny was just happy to be part of the team, and to be out there every day, working and practicing with his friends doing something that he loved…
But he was not one of those kids or people who just hang around…
He was a worker, and we were a better team because he was with us.
Over that time, we had a record of thirty three and three over the time that Dan was a member of those teams.
Dan Gionet was a SELFLESS SOLDIER.

It’s funny… just this past Wednesday night, we had the Pelham High School’s spring awards night at the high school…
And again this year, as every year, there are always coaches who get up to speak, in praise of a particular individual, or in praise of their team, and will make comments like,
“He tried hard all the time…”
Or… “He never gave up…”
Or… “He never complained…”
Among others…
And that always makes me grin a bit… because I like to believe that those qualities should ALWAYS be present in every athlete… almost taken for granted… and I like to think that every one of my boys do that ALL THE TIME.
But, unfortunately, that is not always the case…
But for Dan, it was NEVER an issue…
From Danny, you got 100 percent, every minute of every day, on and off the field, and then some, even when he KNEW that he wasn’t going to be playing the next day.
Dan Gionet was a SELFLESS SOLDIER.

Dan and I had a running joke… after almost every game we played in those years, when the game was over, Dan would say to me, “You know, if I was on THEIR team, I would have started today”…
And he would have…

Dan played football for Coach Babaian and wrestled for Coaches McDonald and Fuller, but those were two sports in which Dan was almost too nice to play…
Coach Fuller told me a story the other night of when Dan had thrown a hard crossface on an opponent, and the referee had to stop the match for the moment, and Dan did all he could do to apologize for hurting his opponent, which is something you just don’t do in wrestling…
Before his last match ever on the wrestling team, Coach McDonald challenged Dan to “Go out there and leave it all on the mat, win or lose”…
Dan finally did, leaving that mat a winner, having to be virtually carried off that mat, because he was physically and emotionally spent, and that’s what Dan gave everybody. He gave it his all, to the point where he had to be carried off…

In preparation for this eulogy, I contacted every teacher and coach that I could think of that had a relationship with Danny…
And EVERYONE, to a person, had the same comment…
No one had that catchy anecdote…
Or that funny story…
But EVERYONE, you could see it in their eyes, sincerely said that Dan Gionet was just an awesome human being, a giver… the first one to take a new kid under his wing, or to push his teammates to be the best that they could be…
In other words, he was a SELFLESS SOLDIER.

Mrs. Metz told me that Dan was the rare kid, who, when he came back to visit, would seek her out just to say, “Hi”, … nothing more … just to say, “Hi”… but he took the time to do it.

I remember walking into the café one day after Dan had graduated and he was helping the wrestling team, and I didn’t know he was in there…
I got tapped on the shoulder and turned around and got bearhugged so hard that I couldn’t breathe… but when he stepped back to let me see who it was, there was Danny… laughing at me… and there are a lot of people in this room who know what those bearhugs felt like…. He wasn’t one for wimpy hugs, was he?
To finish off his high school career, Dan was presented with the yearly Sportsmanship Award, voted by all of the coaches from all of the seasons at Pelham High School.
The criteria for that award is this… The question we ask ourselves is…
“WHAT ATHLETE IN THE ENTIRE SENIOR CLASS WOULD BE THE BEST REPRESENTATIVE OF PELHAM HIGH SCHOOL AND THE TOWN OF PELHAM, ON AND OFF THE PLAYING FIELD, TO REPRESENT US TO SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT….”
The answer that year was easy…. DAN GIONET.

Dan enlisted in the Army in 2001, and was proud of his service, and was serving his second tour of duty when this tragedy struck. During that time, he met and married the love of his life, a lady I’ve gotten to know over the past week, his beautiful wife, Katrina. They had their lives planned out. Everything was set…
Then, on June 4, 2006, a mine rocked the tank in which he was riding, leading to havoc and bloodshed…
Sergeant Dan Gionet, who was a medic, although mortally wounded, helped rescue his comrades from that crippled tank, and administered first aid to them until he couldn’t physically do it anymore…
He then directed other medics, once they arrived on the scene, to take care of the other guys first….
“I’m ok,” he said.
But he wasn’t ok, and Dan died that day in the Iraq desert, making sure that his buddies lived and were taken care of first. Once again, he was consistent. Dan gave his all…
Dan Gionet, the SELFLESS SOLDIER.

Danny, you were our friend, our confidant, our brother, our son, our grandson, our nephew, and our teammate… and you are our hero, and that was a long time before you gave your life to save others in Iraq.

I’d ask everyone here to never take anyone in your lives for granted, because Danny never did. Those who know him know what I mean… Never be afraid go tell thouse who you love that you love them. Use THOSE words. Don’t be afraid of them. Dan did it every day with his words and actions. Let THAT be Danny’s legacy.

Dan Gionet, your country owes you a debt of gratitude which can NEVER BE REPAID for making what the military calls THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE…

But all of US here owe YOU, our SELFLESS SOLDIER, a debt of gratitude which we can NEVER repay for allowing US to be part of YOUR life… and for enriching ours as you did.

We love you, sir, and you’ll NEVER be forgotten.

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