LePage angered by Jay lawmaker's comment on nominee's veteran status

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage said he was "shocked" by the comments of a state lawmaker from Jay on Tuesday.

State of Maine phoot

Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay.

In a news release issued late Tuesday, LePage said  he was "saddened and disappointed" by the comments from state Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, regarding Christopher Pierce's status as a veteran.

Pierce, of Cumberland, is LePage's nominee to serve on the Finance Authority of Maine's board of directors and was before the Legislature's Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development, a panel Gilbert serves on.

The Legislature is in the process of confirming more than 70 LePage nominees this week.

According to a release from LePage's office, Gilbert questioned whether Pierce, who served with the Maine National Guard in the 1970s, with one year of active duty, was eligible as a veteran to serve on board.

"The National Guard in the '70s was not considered qualification for veteran’s status," Gilbert said. "I didn’t realize you were being put on there as a veteran. I think your credentials are great, but to fill a seat to be occupied by a veteran — that’s questionable.” 

Anyone who served in the armed services and was not given a dishonorable discharge is considered a, "veteran" under Maine law, LePage said in his statement.

“I am deeply disappointed by this comment,” LePage said. “All of our military service members are valued and should be recognized for their dedication to service."

LePage suggested Gilbert needed a lesson, "on the freedoms we all share and how they came to be; it is because of the selflessness of our veterans from the past and present, that we enjoy these freedoms."

Reached by phone Tuesday night, Gilbert said he meant no disrespect toward Pierce but believes the spot, one of two on the FAME board, is reserved for a veteran.

Gilbert is a veteran of the U.S. Army and served from 1965 to 1968, including a tour of duty in Panama. Gilbert also said during his career with the Maine Department of Labor's CareerCenter in Lewiston he often helped veterans find work or retraining and that he was recognized by the department for doing so. 

"I don't see how anybody could say I was disrespectful to veterans," Gilbert said.

Gilbert said he was a lifetime member of both the American Veterans and American Legion.

Gilbert said Pierce's credentials were excellent and he only voted against him because he believed the spot on the FAME board should have gone to a veteran as it is defined by the state's Veterans' Administration and the Department of Labor.

To be eligible for veteran's status with the VA or the DOL a veteran must have served more than 180 days on active duty, excluding training and drill, Gilbert said. 

"It seems as though they could have found somebody that was really qualified," Gilbert said. "There is a reason that it states a veteran is to sit on that board. This has nothing to do with Mr. Pierce's qualifications."

The committee voted 7-3 Tuesday to confirm Pierce. The full Senate is expected to vote on the nomination Thursday.

sthistle@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

I have two friends...

...both from the same era, who served six years in the National Guard but are not considered veterans. Remember, their training does not count toward the days needed to qualify. If that qualification were to be removed, the Veterans Administration would close all across the country the next day for lack of funds.

LePage angry....

So what's new??? He just hates anyone that isn't a Republican and it doesn't matter the subject matter..check it out people..he helps towns that have Repulicans in charge and ignores the rest...this LePage is one sick person..

Jane Ryerson's picture

Paul Gilberts comments

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including my life."

Jane Ryerson's picture

Rep Paul Gilberts Veterans comment

Mr. Gilbert should get his facts straight before he makes a comment. We are currently researching names for a veterans honor roll in the town of Bethel. My husband a 20 year retiree of the U.S. Army and a recruiter for 12 years, said the qualifications to be on the honor roll would be any person who entered any branch of the service, to include the reserves, the national guard, coast guard & merchant marines beside the other branches of the service are eligible to be on this honor roll as a veteran. Any service person that raises their hand and takes the oath when they enter the service and gets a dishonorable discharge is a veteran. You do not have to be in a conflict to be considered a veteran. Mr. Gilbert should retract and apologize to this veteran.

David Marsters's picture

LePage angered

If it wasn't for The National Guard in all states, the Army could not go to war as there isn't enough soldiers. So the Fed gov. depends on the states National guard. The National guard was put in place years ago to protect the states not go over seas.

Mr Gilbert probably was never over seas, to fight a war. He may have served during war time but not actually in the war. Mr Gilbert probably wanted one of his cronies for the job.

 's picture

I think that paul Gilbert is

I think that paul Gilbert is somewhat mis-informed as my husband retired from the national guard after 20 years of service with no full time activation and is a military veteran with benefits such as burial in the veterans cemetary and a small check each month as well as other benefits. It sounds like sour grapes to me or that that Mr Gilbert might have wanted the position. He enlisted in the late 50's and retired in the late 70's.

Who's to judge?

Legally, Gilbert is right: not everyone who serves in the National Guard is a veteran. But even going beyond legal definitions: who's best qualified to judge? Gilbert served honorably in the military during wartime; LePage (and I) did not.

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