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Foundations, community growing for Derry veteran
Eagle-Tribune - 4/24/2017
April 24--DERRY -- The foundation is poured and the community is being built.
For Derry veteran Larry Riemer, it's a wonderful sight and a long time coming.
A community mission is well underway to build Reimer a new house on his property at 213 Island Pond Road.
Many visitors drive past and often stop to see the construction work in progress including friends, supporters and town officials.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter paid Riemer a visit, saying she had heard about his story and wanted to meet him.
That came after Derry resident and Navy veteran Ernie St. Pierre reached out to the congresswoman to tell her Riemer's story.
St. Pierre has been on board with the house project since the beginning and said he wants Riemer and his wife Shirley reunited.
Riemer's identity had remained quiet in the early phases of the house-building project, to protect his dignity and privacy, but now the 80-year-old is a regular fixture at the site of his new home, watching progress and often sitting on a nearby hay bale to watch.
"He's happy now," St. Pierre said, adding he reached out to Shea-Porter because he knew the legislator strongly supported veteran issues.
"She helps vets," he said. "I told her the story."
Riemer, an Air Force veteran, has been living in a small out-building on his property after a fire destroyed his Derry home in 2001. With no running water and heat provided by a small wood stove, Riemer still finds time to volunteer to help others including bringing food to those in need.
Community organizations, businesses and residents have been working to support the new house through fundraisers, donations and other support.
The foundation is already poured and the framing of the two-bedroom home will begin soon, according to Town Councilor Jim Morgan.
When Shea-Porter arrived, she greeted Riemer with a big hug and said she was impressed with his service and story.
"I read (the story) and was really inspired," she said.
Shea-Porter told Riemer she had many veterans who served in her family and thanked him for his service. Riemer, in turn, offered a few personal suggestions on how the country should be operating, especially when it comes to conflicts with other countries.
"Just don't rush into things," Riemer told the congresswoman.
Shea-Porter, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, told the veteran that there is a strong bi-partisan commitment to being "sober and responsible" when it comes to making tough decisions.
Riemer also noted he voted for the Democratic legislator.
The mission to help Riemer spawned the formation of the Derry Veterans Assistance Fund, with a goal of not only helping Riemer, but also continuing on to help other veterans in Derry that fall on hard times or need assistance.
Through combined efforts of Rotary clubs, the Derry Veterans Assistance Fund and other support, more than $50,000 has been raised to fund the group's home-building project as well as other projects in the future.
It's a true community effort, Morgan said. Many local businesses are donating services, materials and labor to help build a simple, two-bedroom home for this veteran and his wife.
Morgan said he hopes to see Riemer in his new home by this summer, maybe mid-June but truly hoping for the Fourth of July.
And it is Morgan's hopes that by helping this one man, the Derry Veterans Assistance Fund will continue on to pay it forward to help others, with a potential of other communities following suit to set up a support fund and network for their own veterans.
For Riemer, it's a show of support although, he often states he may be undeserving of such attention. But he is appreciative of all the help.
"It's been a long time coming, believe me," the father of four said.
And he's no hero, Riemer noted.
"I didn't do anymore than anybody else," he said.
To learn more about supporting local veterans in need, visit the Derry Veterans Assistance Fund at helpderryvets.org.
(c)2017 The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, Mass.)
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