Huot Center Honors Students for achievements


LACONIA — The Huot Career and Technical Center Thursday night honored the accomplishments of 136 students at its annual Celebration of Achievement ceremony.
The students achieved high academic and industry standards through their Huot programs, completed industry certifications and earned college credits according to David Warrender, Huot Center director. He said the students who were honored are from Belmont, Franklin, Gilford, Inter-Lakes, Laconia and Winnisquam Regional high schools.
The center provides students the opportunity to learn through doing, and students this year participated in community based projects such as the Children’s Auction, assisting with health and vision screenings at local elementary schools and providing food for numerous community events.
“Our mobile maker space put cutting-edge technology in the hands of middle school students, and our building construction and plumbing programs built a Tiny House that was simply remarkable. This is only a small sampling of the many activities our students engage in that give back to the community and provide real world learning opportunities,” said Warrender.
He said that the Tiny House built by Huot students was selected as the best in a statewide competition held by the New Hampshire Lottery and that on the same day the award was announced three students learned that they had won medals in the state Skills USA competition.
A bronze medal in plumbing was awarded to Andrew Fielders of Belmont High School. The Huot also had two gold medal winners, Laconia High School student Steve Towers and Winnisquam Regional High School student, Bryson LaCaphelle. They will travel with their instructors to the Skills USA National Competition in Louisville, Kentucky.
It was also pointed out that Connor Craigie of Gilford has been named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, one of only 160 in the entire country.
The Certified SolidWorks Associate, an industry recognized credential in computer aided drafting and mechanical design, was achieved by Connor Craigie, Cameron Fraser, Jackson Laflamme, Logan Krause, Jackson Connor
and Josh Shevlin.
Paulette Loughlin of the Lakes Region Scholarship Foundation presented scholarships to over 30 students.
The Huot Achievement Awards,, given annually to one outstanding student from each of the school's program areas, were also presented. Students who are selected by their teachers have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their educational programs and will be actively pursuing their career goals.
Winners were:
BioMedical Technology, Tyler Boissonault
The Huot Capstone Program, Mikayla Howes
Allied Health, Nathan Manville
Plumbing and Heating, Steve Towers
MET, Connor Craigie
Careers in Education, Krystal Groz
Building Construction, Bryson LaChapelle
Digital Media Arts, Kaitlyn Mowery
Health Science and Technology, Cody Griffin
Culinary Arts, Dakota McDaniels
Automotive, Korry Blake
Law Enforcement, Katie Deroche

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Award winners at the Huot Career and Technical Center's celebration of achievement included Bryson LaChapelle of Winnisquam Regional High School and Sam Guyer of Laconia High School, Golden Hammer Award winner, and Mary Davis of Gilford High School, building construction, who received a $1,500 scholarship, and Corinne Parker of Inter-Lakes High School, health services, who received a $1,000 scholarship. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

‘Not just about the grave with the flag’

Blue Star Mothers are mindful of the missing on Memorial Day


MEREDITH — Karen Thurston, president of the Blue Star Mothers of New Hampshire, said that, while Memorial Day is a time to honor veterans who have died, people also should be mindful of those who are prisoners of war or missing in action.

“Who understands this more clearly than a mother, father, or sibling who has a family member currently serving?” she asked.

Blue Star Mothers, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, is an organization formed during World War II, encouraging the mothers of servicemen to offer support by volunteering at hospitals, bringing snacks to the train stations where soldiers were arriving home, and sending care packages to those serving overseas. The organization formed in Flint, Michigan, and was officially recognized in the Congressional Record on Feb. 6, 1942. Chapters soon formed in Ohio, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, California, Iowa, and Washington. The New Hampshire chapter formed in 2005.

Joy Hall, second vice president of the organization, said she learned about the group from another Blue Star Mother she met while waiting for her son, Peter, to arrive home from basic training in the Army. The family of anyone in the service automatically qualifies as a Blue Star Mother.

“We support each other, primarily,” Thurston said. “We advocate for services, assist veterans with items, and make sure vets in rural areas have access to care. Maybe they don’t qualify for transportation on the shuttle bus; we pay for a taxi and gas. We do a lot with Liberty House in Manchester, including giving scarves and doing a food drive for them. They not only have a facility that can house a handful of vets, they do a lot of community outreach, looking for those out on the street.”

In the past, there has been a focus on the plight of Vietnam veterans, but Thurston said they are now seeing veterans of Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan in need of services.

Blue Star Mothers recognize that their own sons or daughters might be lost at any time. “There’s always that wonder: Are they going to make it home?” said Hall.

On Memorial Day, the survivors of those who have given their lives have a gravesite to visit or a memorial commemorating their loss, Thurston said. “But the POW families are left in limbo. They may have just a picture or an artifact to remember their loved one.”

She said she has met people who have photographs of relatives they’ve never met. It may be of a 17-year-old who went to Korea and never returned. The grandmother may have had the photo on the mantel until she died, and the relatives inherited it without ever having known who that person really was.

“There’s always going to be an empty seat and an empty memory,” Thurston said. “There’s a ghost in the house, and we have to remember these families, too.”

Thurston said she didn’t want to detract from the losses of the families with servicemen who have fallen.

“Whether they served four years and lived in a community for 65 years, or died in battle, we thank them for their service,” she said. “Some veterans come back and they’re not the same person they were when they left. The family went through a loss. How we deal with them today is different from those returning from Vietnam, but it’s still a struggle. I just want people to think about it; it’s not just about the grave with the flag.”

Thurston’s son, Alex, went through two deployments, so “there were holidays where there’s been an empty chair,” she said. “That’s what Memorial Day is: We have to remember those who are no longer here to share those memories.”

Alex Thurston was deployed with the National Guard in Iraq in 2004-05, and he returned to Jordan and Kuwait in 2016. “We went in to built it up, and returned to tear it down,” he told her.

Hall’s son, Peter Freeman, entered the Army’s infantry division in 2011, and now is serving as a recruiter in New Jersey. “I’m glad he’s here as a recruiter, and not overseas,” Hall said.

Both women say Memorial Day can be a very tough day for veterans.

“It’s bittersweet for them because of the friends they’ve lost, either while deployed or to suicide after they’ve returned,” said Thurston. “They want the day to be low-key and recognize the sacrifices their friends made. They don’t want to hear ‘Thank you for your service’ on Memorial Day.”

The Blue Star Mothers of New Hampshire contribute to causes that help veterans and their families, including Honor Flight New England, which transports veterans to Washington, D.C. They joined in an effort to create a Reflection Fountain honoring Blue, Gold, and POW families at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, and donated to the New Hampshire Veterans Heritage Learning Center there. They also donated to the Gold Star Family Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Thurston said the contacts they have made through Blue Star Mothers have allowed them to connect soldiers with their families while on their way to deployment, as well as establishing relationships with older veterans.

“They have life experiences none of us will ever have, so they value what we have,” Thurston said.

Although the Blue Star organization carries “mothers” in the name, it actually is open to wives, husbands, fathers, stepmothers, stepfathers, parents through adoption, foster parents and even grandparents, as well. Blue Star families are encouraged to display the Blue Star Banner, honoring those who are serving during a period of war or hostility. The banner carries a star for each service member on active duty. While the banners may be purchased, many families make their own banners for display.

The organization worked for three years to have the state proclaim Blue Star Mothers Day, as it honors Gold Star Mothers on the Sunday after Easter. In 2012, the state finally set Blue Star Mothers Day as occurring on the Sunday after Mothers’ Day.

“New Hampshire has a long history of supporting veterans,” Thurston said. “We need to think of those who are POWs or MIA. I hope that we, as citizens of New Hampshire, 80 years down the road, remembered that young man in the picture.”

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Gilford residents Karen Thurston, left, and Joy Hall display their Blue Star banners. Both have sons serving in the armed forces. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)

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The Blue Star Mothers of New Hampshire contributed toward the creation of the Reflection Fountain at the New Hampshire State Veterans' Cemetery in Boscawen, dedicated to the Blue, Gold and POW families. (Courtesy Photo)

Area pauses to remember those who gave all in war

05 30 Laconia Memorial Day 1 Karen Bobotas

Laconia Mayor Edward Engler speaks to the crowd gathered at Veterans Square during the Memorial Day services yesterday. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun) See videos online on the Sun’s Facebook page.


LACONIA — Somber thoughts were offered by Mayor Ed Engler at the Memorial Day ceremony yesterday under equally somber skies, as many people gathered around the city’s war memorials.
Engler brought attention to a national newspaper’s editorial that complained of the inconvenience of Memorial Day remembrances.
“No!” said Engler. “No! You and I are here today because we know we are supposed to be thinking about the men and women who paid the ultimate price in defense of our country and it’s not too much to ask that all of us pause, if not for the whole day, at least for this hour to remember our war dead, and to draw a straight line between their sacrifices and the liberties we continue to enjoy.”
Engler recounted his childhood memories of solemn parades following World War II, and noted the restored World War I memorial in the park. He ended the speech by reading the names of the 11 Laconians who died in the Vietnam War.

05 30 Laconia Memorial Day 3 Karen Bobotas

Riders from the NH Patriot Guard lead the Memorial Day parade down Main Street.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Youngsters watch the wreath ceremony honoring those lost at sea at Riverside Park during Laconia’s Memorial Day parade.  
(Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

05 30 Gilford Memorial Day 1 Alan Macrae

Members of Gilford Boy Scout Troop 243 place a wreath at the Gilford Veterans Memorial during Memorial Day ceremonies yesterday. (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun) 

05 30 Gilford Memorial Day 2 Alan Macrae

The Gilford Police Department Honor Guard pays respect as the stars and stripes are raised to half mast during Memorial Day ceremonies yesterday.  (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

05 30 Belmont Memorial Day 1 Alan Macrae

Boy Scouts Vincent Butka, left, and Keith Cameron pay respects after placing a wreath on the veterans monument during Memorial Day services in Belmont yesterday.  (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

05 30 Belmont Memorial Day 2 Alan Macrae

A Belmont Police cruiser and the Belmont Police Honor Guard escort members of the American Legion and the Belmont High School marching band toward Monument Square for Memorial Day ceremonies.  (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)