PARIS – With Memorial Day approaching, the state’s adjutant general honored two of the oldest veterans in the Oxford Hills on Wednesday.

Maj. Gen. John W. Libby presented Joseph LaMonte, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, with a Silver Eagle certificate on behalf of the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce. Libby also recognized Alvar Immonen, a 91-year-old World War II veteran. Both men served in the United States Army in the Pacific theater.

In addition, Libby honored Wal-Mart and Ace Insulation for their support of the National Guard and Army Reserve.

Libby has been adjutant general since 2004. The commissioner-level position oversees and administers several departments, including military and veterans’ affairs, civil emergency preparedness, and the Maine National Guard.

“The Army doesn’t go anywhere, and the Air Force doesn’t go anywhere, without the men and women of the Army and Air National Guard,” said Libby.

Libby said the military must support the troops and their families, and conduct outreach to employers in the state when troops are mobilized and deployed.

Troops from the Maine National Guard are currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 10 other countries. Libby said he does not foresee a drawdown in the National Guard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the branch is still flush with volunteers.

“Our operational tempo is greater than it’s ever been, but kids are still banging on the door to join the Guard, to make a difference,” he said.

Libby said the support from the state and federal governments, as well as Maine businesses, makes it a good time to head the Maine National Guard. However, he said, it is also difficult to oversee the Guard during wartime. Eight members of the National Guard and 39 servicemen from the state have been killed since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“You’re sending young men and women out the door, and you don’t know that you’ll bring back the same number that you sent out the door,” he said.

Libby said local defense efforts have focused on mitigating any possible terrorist attack rather than preventing one. He said he worried that the country has become more divided.

“I’m just troubled about the way we’ve polarized as a country,” he said. “I think we’re more secure. I know we’re better prepared. I wish we had that same spirit of unity that we had on 9/12.”

Libby also said the country needs to make serious efforts toward breaking its reliance on foreign oil.

“If we don’t accomplish that in the near term, we’re going to remain in places like Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said.

Libby spoke at a luncheon, attended by several veterans, put on by the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce. Steve Wallace, executive director of the Chamber and a Marine veteran, recognized the role of veterans in the Oxford Hills.

“I would say veterans are part of our business community, just like air is part of our daily life,” Wallace said.

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