Just last week, I had the privilege to travel with a bipartisan group of Senators, including Senator Susan Collins, to Normandy, where we marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. It was an unforgettable experience, and Maine was well represented: two Maine veterans who served during World War II were present and honored at the event. Charles Shay, a Penobscot Tribal Elder who served as an Army medic on D-Day, and Henry Breton, an Augusta man who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was one of four brothers to serve during WWII. It should come as no surprise that Maine had such a strong presence at this event, because our state has one of the highest percentages of veterans in the country. They’re our friends, our neighbors, and our heroes.
As I stared out over Omaha Beach, I found myself reflecting upon the importance of meeting our duty to care for those who served. We are fortunate in Maine to have people who know the importance of meeting this responsibility, and work every day to fulfill it. From the VA Center at Togus to Community-Based Outpatient Clinics to private organizations designed to support veterans, there are a number of valuable resources available to our state’s veteran community.
But one key part of our state’s infrastructure to support veterans often gets less attention: Vet Centers, which provide community-based counseling for qualified veterans. Through these locations, the VA offers readjustment counseling to combat veterans, counseling for those who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma, and bereavement counseling services. Often staffed by counselors who are veterans themselves, these facilities are vital services for many Maine people, helping veterans readjust to civilian life and assisting their loved ones who are trying to understand and support the transition.
In Normandy, I heard from veterans who could recall an event from 75 years ago as if it happened yesterday, the details forever burned into their mind. These recollections were a reminder that America’s veterans carry their days of service with them – both good and bad – in mind and body every day, which is yet another powerful reason we must work diligently to care for them.
Vet Centers have been rising to meet this need for years – in fact, exactly 40 years. This weekend marks four decades since the Vet Centers program was established, and Maine’s five locations – in Portland, Sanford, Bangor, Lewiston, and Caribou – will be holding Open Houses on Thursday, June 13th to mark this milestone. Whether you’re a veteran who’s used Vet Centers or not, a loved one who appreciates the work done by these centers, or a citizen who simply wants to say ‘thank you’ to both our veterans and those who care for them, you can do so at a Vet Center this week. The details are below; I hope you’ll have an opportunity to stop by and celebrate four decades of caring for those who have made so many sacrifices to defend us.
Northern Maine Vet Center – June 13th, 4:00 p.m. to 6 p.m.
456 York St
Caribou, ME 04736
Portland Vet Center – June 13th, 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
475 Stevens Ave
Portland, ME 04103
Sanford Vet Center – June 13th, 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
628 Main St
Springvale, ME 04083
Bangor Vet Center – June 13th, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
615 Odlin Rd Suite 3
Bangor, ME 04401
Lewiston Vet Center – June 13th, 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
35 Westminster St
Lewiston, ME 04240