Protecting those who protect us
On Sept. 11 every year, our country pauses to mourn those we lost on that day in 2001. We also remember all the first responders who lost their lives as a result of trying to help those in need.
In their honor, this year Maine marked the day with the inaugural First Responders Day. This special recognition was made possible by a bill that was passed earlier this year, with unanimous support in both the Senate and House.
Just one week after First Responders Day came POW/MIA Recognition Day, marked this year on Sept. 18. This day of remembrance became official in 1979, after families of the more than 2,500 POWs and MIAs of the Vietnam War pushed for recognition for their loved ones. As a veteran of the war myself, I know how important this recognition is.
Selflessness and bravery are two of the greatest virtues we hold in our society. Few acts are braver or more selfless than running straight into danger, to help those in need. There are real heroes in our communities who have risked their lives, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice, to protect us and keep us safe. It’s only right that we do what we can to have their backs, and offer them protection and help when they need it the most.
During my time in the Legislature, I’ve been part of many efforts to make veterans’ lives at least a little bit better. I know veterans face myriad hurdles when they return home and begin their transition back to civilian life. It’s our duty to do all we can to make that transition as easy as possible. That’s why I sponsored a Veterans Bill of Rights, to help our servicemen and women get access to the critical services they need to put down roots in Maine. I also supported a bill to make sure veterans can get time off from their jobs to go to VA medical appointments. Here in The County, I also pushed to secure $100,000 in grant funding for United Veterans of Maine.
Earlier this month, I was happy to hear about the planned expansion at Togus VA Hospital. This new facility will offer much-needed treatment for veterans suffering from mental health and substance use disorders, right here in Maine. When people can stay connected to their community and loved ones, they’re much more likely to successfully recover and get back on their feet.
At the same time, our frontline workers are under increased stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These are people who are already exposed to traumatic situations, routinely dealing with people on what might be the worst day of their life. Their compassion and strength astound me. To help them through this unprecedented time, the state has launched a Frontline Warmline – a phone line they can call to speak with licensed psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, social workers, and nurse practitioners, who can help them deal with the mental strain they’re grappling with. This free service is available by calling (207) 221-8196 or 866-367-4440, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week.
Our servicemen and women and frontline workers represent the best of us. They put their own safety and well-being to the side to protect ours, at times giving what President Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.” As we reflect this month on those who have done so much to protect our communities and our country, may we continue to ask ourselves what we can do to return a measure of that devotion.
As always, if you have any questions, concerns or ideas, or if you or someone you know needs help connecting with state resources, I’m here to help. You can call me on my cell phone at (207) 532-8197, my office at (207) 287-1515 or email me at Mike.Carpenter@legislature.maine.gov.
Sen. Mike Carpenter, D-Houlton, represents Maine Senate District 2, which consists of central and southern Aroostook County and part of Penobscot County.