August Community Member Spotlight: Philip Huckins
Updated: Aug 4
Nearly 6,000 veterans call the Monadnock region home. Since 2018, Cheshire County Conservation District (CCCD) through the support of The Center for Population Health at Cheshire Medical Center has dedicated the month of September to thanking our veterans.
Every September, CCCD partners with local farmers' markets to celebrate Cheshire County Veterans! Each market day in September, Cheshire County Veterans are invited to participating farmers' markets to receive a $20 voucher to purchase food items.
The Veteran Appreciation Month Program is one way to show our gratitude and appreciation to service members for their sacrifices in protecting our freedoms.
One of those service members is Air Force Veteran, Dr. Philip Huckins of Keene, NH.
Like all service members, Huckins’ story and experience is unique. Huckins notes that it is important for civilians to understand that no veteran has the same experience during and after their service.
Huckins grew up in the small town of Center Strafford, NH. He notes that the town was so small that when his brother began school, it was in a one room schoolhouse in Strafford.
Before graduating from highschool he decided to enlist through the delayed entry program. Huckins enlisted in the United States Airforce in December of 1976 as a Security Police Officer.
Huckins’ active duty began on September 15, 1977, in San Antonio, Texas. While in Texas, he completed basic training, combat training, and security police training. From Texas, he was assigned to Hancock Field in Syracuse, New York as a Base Security Police Officer. During Huckins’ service, he was also stationed for two years at the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. He finished his tour at the Loring Air Force Base in Limestone Maine.
When asked about the first days of his service, Huckins remarks,
“There’s no part of it I don’t remember. I still remember landing in San Antonio and getting on the blue bus at 2:00 O’Clock in the morning”.
Nearly 45 years later, Huckins can vividly recall this chapter of his life, he notes, “I remember every minute of it”.
Huckins in uniform
He still remembers all of the grooming standards, reciting them in detail. He recalls the shortness and quickness of his first haircut on his day of arrival. He can still picture the scar on his Drill Instructor’s face, the way he would scream orders, and drink from a cold bottle of Mr. Pibb in the San Antonio heat.
Huckins notes that in those days, there was no preparation for training as you see today, “I was scared to death, I never had been past St. Louis, Missouri before that, and nothing that I had ever done prepared me for that”.
From the moment he stepped onto the blue bus, he was transported to an entirely different reality, the stark difference between civilian and military life.
When asked what he wishes the community knew about military service he said,
“Civilians don't understand the sacrifice of having been in the military. And sacrifice is on a continuum… every person who goes in the military has sacrificed something. Other than your life, the most important thing that you have is time. Every person who serves gives up opportunity, time, individual expression, individual freedom…"
Huckins served for three years, 10 months, 28 days, and 10.5 hours. He was discharged on August 14, 1981.
While off duty during his service, Huckins developed a deep love of learning. Taking classes and earning credits prior to the end of his service. Shortly after discharge, he began his degree at Boston College. The college atmosphere was a shocking transition from the stringency of military life.
He graduated from Boston College in 1984 and began graduate school. Following earning his master’s degree, he began his 40 year career in the education field. While teaching he pursued a degree in counseling psychology and a PhD at Boston College. Huckins has also earned a master’s degree in Theological Studies from the Episcopal Divinity School. Huckins jokes, “Some people collect matchbooks, I collect degrees”.
Huckins moved to Keene in 2015. He retired three years ago from his position as a college professor, luckily doing so right before the pandemic began.
In 2015, while on sabbatical he worked in Community Services for Representative Paul Hodes. Huckins was introduced to Keene through this work, and immediately knew that he wanted to join the Keene community. Huckins began visiting Keene every weekend, eventually moving into a tiny home in Keene.
Huckins enjoys visiting local restaurants, cafes, The Colonial Theater, and yoga classes. He likes to attend the Farmer’s Market of Keene and enjoys chatting with fellow community members and vendors.
Three years ago, while attending the market, Huckins stumbled upon the Veteran Appreciation Month Program. Huckins enjoys taking part in the program. He likes to visit the other participating Veteran markets in Jaffrey and Hinsdale, and frequently purchases the local maple syrup.
Huckins attending Veteran Appreciation Month at the Hinsdale Farmers Market
One of the highlights of the Veteran markets for him is seeing Veterans come together, he also emphasizes how important this program is for the health of our community,
“The markets are the only times where I see a large number of veterans. The benefit there is they are getting fresh air, they are getting sun, vitamin d, they are getting social interaction which is so crucial to our health.”
CCCD thanks Dr. Philip Huckins for his service, and thanks all community members who have served.
This September, Cheshire County Veterans are invited to The Farmers’ Market of Keene (Saturdays, 9AM-1PM, Commercial Street Parking Lot off Gilbo Ave.) and the Winchester Farmer’s Market (Saturdays, 10AM-2PM, 1 Richmond Rd.) to receive a $20 voucher to purchase food items. Veterans can attend both markets and receive a voucher every weekend in September!
To get your vouchers each week, simply bring proof of your Cheshire County residency and a valid form of Veteran ID.
Valid forms of ID include:
· Copy of DD214
· Veteran Healthcare card
· "Choose VA" Veterans ID card
· NH Driver's license with a Veterans designation
· Retired military ID card
Veterans from these Cheshire County towns are eligible to participate: Keene, Swanzey, Gilsum, Harrisville, Alstead, Hinsdale, Jaffrey, Marlborough, Walpole, Troy, Nelson, Roxbury, Rindge, Dublin, Fitzwilliam, Surry, Sullivan, Chesterfield, Stoddard, Marlow, Westmoreland, Richmond, and Winchester.
To learn more about the Veteran Appreciation Month program, visit: https://www.cheshireconservation.org/veterans