| Jul. 25th, 2014

Honoring Our Veterans

Susan Collins represents Maine in the United States Senate. This is a guest op-ed and the Exception Magazine does not necessarily endorse the views expressed below.

Americans recently paused on Veterans Day to honor the brave men and women who have secured our freedom by their duty, honor, and sacrifice. We honor them because we know we cannot fully enjoy our freedom without remembering the great price at which it has been purchased.

Whether they serve in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, or the Merchant Marine, whether they serve in the regular forces, the National Guard or the Reserves, they pay the price of our freedom in times of conflict, and they are our shield in times of peace.

We honor those who paid the ultimate price, whether they lie at rest in foreign lands or in their hometowns. We honor those who lived beyond their years of military service but who have since passed on. We honor those who remain missing and pledge that they never will be forgotten. And we honor those veterans who are with us today. We owe them all a great debt.

We also honor the parents, the wives and husbands, the children and other loved ones of our veterans and our troops. The families left behind face the challenges of daily living as they suffer from the separation and worry. Their sacrifices are great, and we thank them as well.

Today, nearly 24 million Americans wear the title of veteran. There are more than 138,000 veterans living here in our great state of Maine. In addition to the virtues of courage and sacrifice, they share the qualities of modesty and humility. Often, when peace is won, they return home without receiving the medals and commendations they earned. One of the great privileges I have serving Maine in the United States Senate is helping these quiet heroes receive the recognition they deserve.

As the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor nears, it was a great pleasure to honor two such veterans of World War II. Bernard Jackson of Rockland served in the Pacific, and Roland Richards of Rockport in North Africa, Italy, and France. The reason they did not obtain their medals at the time was the same - their duty was done and they simply wanted to return home to their families and their communities.

Often, these cases are brought to my attention by family members like Mr. Jackson's daughter, Carol Jowdry. In Mr. Richards' case, it was a neighbor, a second-grader named Thor Gabrielsen. Thor wrote to tell me about the brave and kind man across the street who never got the medals he earned in World War II. On the day before Veterans Day, Mr. Richards' received his medals, including the Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button, in a special ceremony at Camden-Rockport Middle School. It is so encouraging to know that our young people have such respect for those who served so long ago.

Not only do individuals respect our veterans, so do entire communities. On Veterans Day itself, I was honored to take part in a wonderful event in the Piscataquis County town of Abbot. The wood plaque bearing the names of veterans from Abbot that stood in the center of this small town had deteriorated, so the townspeople joined together with hard work and a spirit of generosity to replace it with enduring granite. The dedication ceremony was magnificent, and the new Abbot Honor Roll, with the names of the 333 patriots - men and women - who have served our country from the Civil War to today is inspiring.

It is the American character to answer the call of duty It is also the American character to be grateful to those who answer that call. It is because of our veterans and those who serve today that our country still stands, that our founding principles remain strong, and that people around the world who once knew nothing but tyranny now know the blessings of freedom.

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