LOUDON — Ron White plans to add the name of Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Garabrant to his Afghanistan Memory Wall this morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Garabrant, 19, and a 2013 graduate of ConVal Regional High School in Peterborough, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on June 21 and became one of the latest casualties of the war.
White, a memory specialist and Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, has devoted much of his time in the last couple of years to honoring those who have died there.
This weekend, he brought his Memory Wall - made up of 13 black panels - to Loudon and began listing the names, by memory, of all those killed in the conflict."It's kind of a way to say, 'You're not forgotten,'?" White said during a break from his efforts. "A man walked up to the wall yesterday and asked if this is everybody who served in Afghanistan. I said, 'No, it's everybody that has died.' He said, 'You're kidding me. I'm a 20-year veteran of the military and had no idea that many had died.'?
"We want to not only honor them but want people to understand the scope of the sacrifice and how big it is," she said.
White intends to add names to the wall from 8 to 10 a.m. this morning and Garabrant's will be the final name on the final panel.
The sad truth is that the Memory Wall has room for 2,236 names, and White needs to purchase more panels to include the names of all those killed.
He sells T-shirts to defray costs of the Wall and transporting it to displays around the country. He has set it up more than a dozen times, including last weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
White is 41 and from Fort Worth, Tex., and served eight years in the Navy."When I returned from Afghanistan, I was wondering what the Afghanistan Memorial would look like," White said. "That got me to thinking how long it would take me to memorize the names on the Vietnam Wall."Then he realized that, for him, it made more sense to memorize the names of those who have died in Afghanistan.
He started memorizing names in May 2012 and first displayed the wall in February 2013.
At Loudon, it's set up in the S2 Display Lot, outside the tunnel that leads into the infield.
As White talked about the Memory Wall on Saturday morning, John Thomas of Belmont, a former state representative and now a member of the Victory Lane group of volunteer ambassadors at the track, approached and asked him if the names were listed alphabetically.
White explained they were listed in the order in which they died and asked what name Thomas was seeking.
He said Marine Cpl. Nicholas Xiarhos of Massachusetts, the son of Steven Xiarhos, the deputy chief of police in Yarmouth, Mass.
Nick went to Dennis-Yarmouth High School and played football and joined the Marines, all things Thomas had done exactly 50 years before him.
"He came home from Iraq and was home for two months, and they needed three Marines for a special mission," Thomas said. "He was one of three picked from more than 1,000 volunteers."
Nick Xiarhos died in combat on July 23, 2009. The fifth annual Big Nick's Ride for the Fallen, a memorial motorcycle event, will be held Saturday on Cape Cod.
Within seconds of hearing his name, White directed Thomas to name No. 754 on the Memory Wall.