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Blue Star Mothers Kathy Kemp of Londonderry and Kathy Jerome of Hampstead laid a wreath on the town's war memorial during the Wreaths Across America ceremony on town common Saturday morning. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

Moms' Wreath Ceremony honors deployed sons and daughters

LONDONDERRY - Londonderry mom Joanne Paradis won't be able to spend time with her son this Christmas.

Robert, a U.S. Marine, has been deployed in Afghanistan since June, and the Paradis family is now preparing to celebrate another holiday season without the entire family present. It's the second time Robert has been deployed for the holidays; his first tour of Afghanistan coincided with the 2010 winter season.

Joanne, a member of the New Hampshire Blue Star Mothers, said she finds common ground and plenty of listening ears through the friendships she's formed with mothers in similar situations. On a rainy Saturday morning, patriotic parents gathered on town common to share heartfelt words and prayers for their deployed loved ones as they laid out three colorful Christmas wreaths on the town's military memorial.

The national Wreaths Across America ceremonies at monuments and graves honor those currently serving as well as soldiers who either lost their lives in the line of duty, or whose last known status was prisoner of war or missing in action.

A handful of residents attended Londonderry's ceremony, which concluded with three wreaths being placed on the town veterans' memorial by the mothers and American Legion Post 27 Commander John McCarthy and his wife, Ladies Auxiliary member Donna McCarthy.

Kathy Kemp of Londonderry, whose son Craig's National Guard unit is on its second deployment to the Middle East, said she won't see her son again for "about another year," while Hampstead mother Kathy Jerome has two sons serving in the U.S. Air Force; one of them will soon deploy to Alaska.

"We are here today to say 'thank you'," Kemp said. "We're here to thank all of America's and daughters currently serving in all branches of the military, both at home and in places far away. We owe them our way of life. And if you thank them, it would be a moment of your life well-spent."

The Blue Star Mothers organization dates to January 1942, when a Michigan newspaper printed a coupon for mothers of servicemen to fill out and return. According to the organization's website, after receiving more than a thousand responses, a permanent organization was formed, and mothers volunteered throughout World War II working in hospitals and train stations, sending care packages to soldiers and working as part of homeland security. Today, the organization is represented throughout the United States and often works in collaboration with the New Hampshire Gold Star Mothers, a group of mothers who have lost a son or daughter in the line of service. There are around 70 active Blue Star Moms in the Granite State.

aguilmet@newstote.com

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