Capital Comments: Alstead bridge dedicated to veterans

By State Senator Bob Odell

Veterans Day events can be emotionally powerful.  That was certainly true when the Newport Middle High School honored local veterans and again when a bridge in Alstead was dedicated in honor of past, current and future veterans.

It was the sixth year the students and staff at the Newport Middle High School have honored local veterans with their recognition program, “Serving Those Who Served.”  Held this year on the morning before Veterans Day, the event brought together area veterans for a free breakfast and a program of music, readings and speeches to acknowledge and thank veterans for their service and sacrifice.

Phyllis LaVigne drew upon her personal experiences having served in the United States Navy for more than two decades.  She reminded us of the progress women have made over the past thirty years gaining responsibility, respect and opportunities as they serve in the Navy and other branches of the military.  To the students sitting in the audience with the veterans, she encouraged them to talk with veterans as they are the living history of our state and nation.

Newport native and retired Army Master Sergeant Peter Merritt offered his perspective on the service of our current military and veterans alike.  He reflected on his own experience in Iraq as part of a long military career and noted some of the fallen heroes of our state including Jason Rollins of Newport who died in 2007.

Excellent student patriotic music presentations and a demonstration by the Spirit Squad were interspersed with the addresses.  Moving moments included special recognition of Jesse Scott as the oldest veteran now over 100 years of age.  Diane Fisher who came up with the idea of “Serving Those Who Served” was given a bouquet of flowers and a certificate in appreciation for creating the program and organizing it each year.

*   *   *

I joined Governor Lynch at the podium on Veterans Day to dedicate the new bridge in Alstead as the Alstead Veterans Memorial Bridge.  The new bridge replaces a temporary bridge that had been in place since the original bridge was destroyed in the October, 2005 flood.  There were many veterans and townspeople there along with elected officials as well as the ROTC unit from Fall Mountain High School.

Naming the bridge to honor Alstead veterans was the work of a hard working group of local veterans.  But the bridge is a state bridge so naming it required that a law be passed.

Jim Fowles, on behalf of the veterans, approached Governor for help.  The Governor asked me to try to get legislation passed to name the bridge.  This was in June and we all knew it was too late in the 2009 session to introduce a new bill.

I found a bill that was going to be voted on in the last day of the session in June that had a tie to a water related matter.  The legislature does no allow amendments to be added to a bill unless it is on a related subject.  So, having found the bill, I prepared a floor amendment naming the bridge which passed the Senate and was accepted by the House without a committee of conference.

The Governor had committed to being in Alstead for the dedication if the legislation passed and he was true to his word. Being with Governor Lynch in Alstead brought back many memories of the days immediately after the 2005 flood.  The people of Alstead were an inspiration but Governor Lynch was, too.  He spent four of the first five days after the flood in Alstead setting up shop at a table in the firehouse.  The town and its citizens have moved far from those dark days of destruction, adversity and challenge.

The newly named bridge is one more reminder of what a town can do when everyone pulls together.

*   *   *

Many decades ago I was a Boy Scout in Troop 4 in Milford.  So it is always gratifying to see scouts in action.  Last Saturday Claremont scouts were collecting and sorting non perishable food items at the Claremont soup kitchen.  A scout leader, Denny Francis, told me the scouts had collected over 2,000 items given by Claremont residents.  Once again, the scouts were doing their job well helping those in need in their community.  Scouts have been doing this for over 100 years.

My purpose in catching up with Denny was to give him a citation from the Governor and a New Hampshire State Senate resolution congratulating Benjamin Morse on becoming an Eagle Scout.  I know every young man benefits from being a scout but only a small percentage of scouts reach the highest rank, Eagle Scout.  It is a major personal achievement and I congratulate Ben on reaching the pinnacle of scouting.

*   *   *

Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday.  I have fond childhood memories of traditional Thanksgiving meals followed by time passing a football on the front yard.  And while childhood for me is now several decades in the past, I look forward this year to a family dinner and sharing some time with two grandsons I get to see all too infrequently.  Hopefully, we will be creating some new memories for a new generation.   My best wishes to readers for your own enjoyable and memorable Thanksgiving Day.

NH State Senator Bob Odell (District 8) is chairman of Ways and Means, a member of the Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee, and the Finance Committee. Senate District 8 comprises: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.

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