By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Teachers, community leaders, law enforcement personnel and firefighters all got a big thank-you Sunday.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1617 and its auxiliaries hosted its annual Loyalty Day celebration May 4, honoring outstanding residents, teachers, and other community members.
This year’s honorees included emergency services personnel and firefighters, police, teachers, students, VFW supporters and members, and other community members who make a difference in the town they live in or serve.
Post 1617 Commander Carl Starosciak led the ceremony and helped distribute the awards.
Families, special guests and Post members attended the celebration at the post on Railroad Avenue.
Award winners were nominated by their peers; each received a plaque and an American flag.
Loyalty Day began decades ago when the Veterans of Foreign Wars started observing the day to counteract Communist efforts at the time, and to spread messages of patriotism and justice.
In 1949, Congress officially named May 1 Loyalty Day. In Derry, in the years since, the local VFW has honored Derry citizens, town officials, law enforcement, firefighters and volunteers for their service to the town and to veterans in a ceremony in early May.
Following a proclamation read by Town Council Chairman Mark Osborne, the awards were given.
Dana Park, a 23-year veteran of law enforcement, was named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Police Chief Edward Garone called Park a “tremendous contribution” to the police department.
“Dana is a good man who happens to be a police officer,” Garone said.
Ed King was named Firefighter/Paramedic of the Year. He said it was a honor to be nominated by his peers for the Loyalty Day award.
“It means a lot coming from a group like the VFW,” he said.
Robert Gorham was named Community Service Senior Volunteer of the Year.
Teachers in the Derry School District and Pinkerton Academy also were recognized. Jane Fox, Barbara Dupont and Paula Vaughan took elementary, middle school and high school top teacher honors, respectively.
“I feel like I’m in a room among heroes today,” Fox, a Barka Elementary School teacher, said.
Dupont, a West Running Brook Middle School teacher, said she was very honored to be recognized.
“I’m very blessed to have a job where I can make a difference in the lives of children,” she said.
Other awards included: David Trow, Buddy Poppy Distributor of the Year; Pinkerton ROTC students, Commander’s Patriotic Award; Derry Cable Television, Commander’s Community Award; Julie Huss, Commander’s Special Award; Dot Mattson, Ladies’ Auxiliary President’s Award; and Leo Trudel and Frank Hooley, Men’s Auxiliary President’s Award.
Mattson also received a Commander’s Service Award for her many years of service to the VFW post home and its Ladies’ Auxiliary, and her work supporting troops overseas with an adopt-a-troop initiative.
“I love what I do,” Mattson said. “I love serving the vets.”