Paul Smith Elementary School Principal Michael Hoyt was presented with the Patriot Award last Wednesday for support of military spouses. Posing with the award are (left to right) David Quinn, Executive Director of Employment Support of the Guard and Reserves; Brigadier General David Puster; Hoyt; PES kindergarten teacher Martha Blouin, who nominated Hoyt for the honor; and her husband, 1st Sgt. Robert Blouin of the 368th Engineering Battalion, who just returned home from Afghanistan on Jan. 12. Missing from the photo are Vic Rogers, Military Outreach Director for ESGR, and committee member Woody Fogg, both of Belmont. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
January 25, 2012FRANKLIN — It was a day of national pride when the students of Paul Smith Elementary School welcomed home First Sgt. Robert Blouin of the 368th Engineer Battalion, U.S. Army Reserves, and helped his wife, kindergarten teacher Martha Blouin, thank the school for all the support she received during his latest deployment to Afghanistan.
Blouin and his battalion arrived at Fort Dix on Jan. 3 of this year, and finally made their way back to their home base in Londonderry on Jan. 12.
On hand last Wednesday to present Principal Michael Hoyt with the Patriot Award were members of the Employment Support for the Guard and Reserves, along with Blouin and several members from his battalion.
ESGR was formed in 1972 to help educate employers on their rights and responsibilities when a guard or reserve member is deployed. Its commitment is to assure soldiers they will be able to return to a job once their service time is complete. The Patriot Award was initially presented to exemplary employers of soldiers, but is now extended to thank employees of military spouses as well.
Hoyt, as expressed in a letter to the ESGR from Martha Blouin, was a most valuable assistant to her family during her husband's second deployment over the last year.
"If I came in to work and just started crying sometimes, having an emotional day, he'd tell me to just go home. He was so supportive," she said.
In her letter recommending Hoyt for the award, Blouin said, "He has helped out with repair and yard work at my house when my husband has been deployed. He supports our Veteran's Day and Memorial Day assemblies for the children, and has let us put up a Hero bulletin board which displays pictures of our soldiers."
Four other teachers at Paul Smith Elementary School have family members who are deployed, along with some of the students. Blouin said Hoyt and his staff have been instrumental in seeing them all through a difficult time.
"Their support makes a year long deployment easier to get through. I believe Mike deserves this recognition for his support of our military here in Franklin," she wrote.
In a ceremony held in the gym last Wednesday, representatives of the U.S. Army Reserves and ESGR had the opportunity to express their appreciation, as well, when they honored Hoyt and the school community.
"It's a privilege to be here today. We couldn't do what we do without the support of the American people," said Brigadier General David Puster, Commanding General of the 302nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, just prior to the presentation.
While Blouin was busy protecting national interests in Afghanistan, Puster said, it was instrumental for him to know others were there for his family.
Martha Blouin began the special assembly by leading students in the Pledge of Allegiance. She then referred to the New England Patriots football team, an obvious favorite with the young boys and girls, as she told them they, too, could be patriots.
"A patriot is someone who loves his or her country and supports the United States of America. Can you be patriots? You can be by supporting (our servicemen and women)," she said. "These people are here today to say thank you to us and Mr. Hoyt for being good patriots."
Puster then took center stage, and boosted a rallying cry from the boys and girls. He expressed his personal thanks to the children for supporting not just Blouin, but all who are sacrificing their lives and time away from their families. That, he said, is important to society.
"The reason we're here today is because Mr. Hoyt and the staff have been very supportive and created a great environment of support for our soldiers overseas," Puster said.
ESGR works to promote support from the employers of both soldiers and their families during deployment, and Puster said Hoyt was being recognized for "doing a fantastic job."
Committee Chair David Quinn presented the Patriot Award to Hoyt, saying it is always a pleasure to recognize those who do more than might normally be expected.
Blouin also presented Hoyt, whom he gratefully called a friend, with a flag which was flown over his base in Afghanistan on Nov. 1.
Hoyt said he felt the least he could do was help protect the homes of men and women who were overseas, protecting the homes of all Americans.
"We've become like a family. A lot of people helped when there were things that needed to be done, and part of that is emotional support," Hoyt said.
Among his many efforts to assist the Blouin family were help with yard work and some much needed assistance when a sump pump failed in their home. Sgt. Blouin said Hoyt's support kept him from worrying so much about his wife, family and home as he tended to his job in Afghanistan.
"I just want to thank Mike and everyone today. We had a lot of support, and it was so appreciated," Blouin said.
Among the others attending the ceremony were ESGR Military Outreach Director Vic Rogers of Belmont, ESGR committee member Woodbury Fogg of Belmont, and 368th Engineering Battalion Commander Gregory Scott and his fellow soldiers.