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January 02. 2013 10:20PM

Veterans advocate is 2012 winner of McQuillen award


Mary Morin, director of the NH Office of Veterans Services, is recognized as the winner of the 2012 Maurice McQuillen for Service to Fellow New Hampshire Veterans Award, as she poses with from left Colin McQuillen, 11, Liam, 7, and Scott. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
While the bureaucracy of veteran services can prove confounding and frustrating for New Hampshire veterans, they have an ally in Mary Morin.

The director of the New Hampshire Office of Veteran Services for the past seven years, Morin is the 2012 recipient of the Maurice McQuillen Service to Fellow New Hampshire Veterans Award.

She oversees an office of six people whose job is to secure all benefits possible for New Hampshire veterans.

They range from health care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to property tax exemptions through local government.

"We love the VA, we love the programs they offer, but it is a cumbersome system. Everyone would admit that," Morin said.

Her office counts 6,000 active clients, and she said it helped to secure $61 million in federal benefits for New Hampshire veterans. Her job also involves developing legislation and lobbying for veterans at the state level.

Barry Conway, the outgoing commandant of the New Hampshire Veterans Home, nominated Morin for the award.

"Because of her knowledge, advocacy and efforts, Mrs. Morin has been able to obtain many benefits for those veterans served by her office," Conway wrote in the nomination.

Morin is also involved in a host of other veteran-related activities. She is a secretarial appointee to the committee that advises the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on women veterans.

And she serves on the state Veterans Advisory Committee, the Commission on Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the Governor's Commission on Disabilities, the Commission to Study Veteran Employment and the Commission to Implement a Veterans Legal Assistance Project.

Morin retired from the Air Force as a master sergeant after 21 years of service. Her career involved maintenance on the frames of some of the nation's most sophisticated flying machines - the B-52, the KC-135 tanker and the B-2 Stealth bomber. She's been based at Air Force stations in California, Missouri, Maine and New York.

In 1989, she was named the Strategic Air Command Inspector General Outstanding Performer. In 1999 she received the Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Award from the 509 Maintenance Squadron.

Her father is a Vietnam War veteran. Her husband is a Gulf War veteran. And her son is serving his third tour in the Middle East.

A blast injury from a power tool injured her wrist, which put her on disability status, so she knows first-hand the process of securing benefits.

She earned a bachelor's degree and took a job as a service officer with the New Hampshire Office of Veterans Affairs in 2005. Two years later, she was elevated to director.

"We're basically advocates for veterans," Morin said. "I absolutely love the job."

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Mark Hayward may be reached at mhayward@unionleader.com.

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