National Guard member says he was honored to serve at presidential inauguration

3 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A local National Guard member had the chance to participate in history when called to serve in the nation’s capital during Inauguration Day.

Cole Richards of Presque Isle wasn’t close enough to view the Jan. 20 ceremonies, but he said being in Washington, D.C., at the time was an honor he won’t soon forget.

“We swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic and were able to uphold this oath by helping secure the Capitol and ensuring the peaceful transition of power,” Richards said Wednesday.

His group served security detail on the outer perimeter surrounding the activities, so they were unable to see the inauguration.

“But we did see the fireworks that night,” Richards said.

Richards, whose civilian career is as quality control/process engineer at Daaquam Lumber in Masardis, has been in the National Guard for seven years, serving in various units. He was one of about 200 Maine Army National Guard personnel who were activated to support the D.C. National Guard and Capitol Police for inauguration security. 

His current unit, the 251st Engineer Company, based in Norway, Maine, was joined by the 136th Engineer Company of Skowhegan and the 185th Engineer Support Company detachment of Houlton.

Richards said it was an honor to represent Maine and serve among personnel from all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. 

“I am very proud of the soldiers in my platoon and all members of the Maine National Guard, who activated on short notice with positive attitudes and the highest levels of professionalism,” he said.

Working amidst the COVID-19 pandemic brought its own considerations, though Richards said both the Guard and his employer have done well in following Maine Center for Disease Control guidelines.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we were screened in D.C. prior to returning, as well as when we landed in Maine, and are now completing the required isolation period,” he said.

His time in Washington afforded Richards another opportunity:  the chance to catch up with two friends who also happen to be from Aroostook County.

Jacob Towle of Presque Isle and Elsa Thibodeau of Stockholm are staff members in U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office. All three graduated in 2012, Richards and Towle from Presque Isle High School and Thibodeau from Caribou High School.  Both Towle and Thibodeau served internships in the senator’s office and were hired in 2017 as staff assistants.

“I messaged Jake, since I knew he worked close by, and he and Elsa were able to give me a quick tour during one of our breaks, which was special since [I have been] very good friends with Jake since high school and we have all been great friends since attending the University of Maine at Orono together,” Richards said.

The fact that three successful County natives serve in a national capacity is not lost on him. Being from The County, he said, instilled in him a strong work ethic and positive attitude that benefit him on the job in Masardis or when serving in the Guard.

Growing up working on potato harvesters and being around the genuine, hard working, caring people of The County had a huge impact on my upbringing and why I choose to remain living in The County.”

Still, he appreciates the chance to serve his country at such an historic event.

“Many of us had never been to our nation’s capital and it will be an experience that we remember forever,” Richards said.