When Helaina Lake journeyed home Tuesday, she was met by the community of Maine.
Sgt. Lake, an Army policewoman injured by a suicide-bomber in Afghanistan last June, arrived in Portland after months of medical treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. From Portland, she was transported north to Jay by limo, and all along the way people clapped, waved flags and lined the streets to cheer her arrival home.
It was, by any standard, a tremendous outpouring of love and support for Lake and — by extension — for every soldier, sailor, Marine or airman ever injured in service to our country.
Maine has had, since the Civil War, a greater proportion of residents-turned-soldiers than nearly every other state. We are home to the second-highest concentration of veterans, per capita, in the country, second only to Alaska. And, in 2010, Maine also had the highest Army recruitment rate in the country.
As we reported on Veterans Day, according to the Maine Bureau of Veteran Services, 35,061 Mainers served in World War I, 112,962 in World War II, 40,099 in Korea and 48,000 in Vietnam. Close to 10,000 have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, including Lake.
Air Force Master Sgt. Evander Earl Andrews, 36, of Solon, was the first announced American casualty in Afghanistan, killed Oct. 10, 2001. Eighteen other Mainers have been killed there since, and hundreds more have been injured and will carry the scars of war through the rest of their lives.
Maine has lost more than 40 servicemen and women in Iraq since March 21, 2003, which was the date of Maine’s first casualty in that war: that of Marine Major Jay Thomas Aubin, 36, of Skowhegan.
According to Peter Ogden, director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services, "The young men and women are raising their hand today and enlisting knowing they're going to combat." They are following their fathers, uncles, grandfathers and others into service. "I don't want to say (they're) looking forward to it, but they're not shirking that responsibility either," Ogden said.
There are a lot of reasons Maine has such high rate of volunteerism, including the fact that today’s military careers offer education and training that recruits may not have access to (or can afford) at home. And, then, there’s a strong thread of patriotism that runs through this state, a love of country that presented itself with dignity in welcoming Sgt. Lake home. In taking the time to show her and others that commitment to country matters and that the sacrifice of service is honored.
We salute Lake for her service and wish her well in her recovery.
And, we salute the people who welcomed her home with such an earnest and thankful community embrace.
The towns of Norway and Paris have an opportunity, again, to visit the potentially cost-saving and patrol-enhancing concept of merging police departments.
A one-year trial merger agreement had the support of these towns’ respective budget committees and boards of selectmen earlier this year and, in June, voters in Norway overwhelmingly approved the proposal. In August, voters in Paris — after 15 minutes of discussion — failed to adopt the measure in a 41-41 vote.
Some people in Paris who voted against the proposal didn’t want to discuss the idea at all. Others liked the idea, but not the proposal put before voters on that day.
Last week, two of Paris Police Department’s officers — Chief David Verrier and Lt. Michael Dailey — each resigned to take jobs in different departments. Their departures had nothing to do with the failure to test merge with Norway, but their decisions offer a great opportunity for the towns to have another go at negotiations.
There’s a lot to like about merging these departments, including sharing equipment and sharing officers with specialized training, and allowing officers to enforce laws in both towns, which is (curiously) not permitted under current mutual aid agreements. Merging would allow greater flexibility in establishing patrol routes and has great potential to centralize administrative costs.
It’s going to take some time to replace these two key officers in Paris anyway, so why not take another look at potential merger while these positions are vacant as part of a temporary solution and see if its benefits mandate a more permanent arrangement?
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.