A vacation is usually considered a time to rest, explore and experience. My husband, a career officer (retired) who served in the Air Force as a pilot and navigator refueling fighters during the Vietnam conflict, decided that after 19-plus years of retirement, he would enjoy one of the benefits accorded him as a retiree — flying “space available” with a spouse.

To fly “space-a,” you have to learn the ropes, know when to sign up and have a calendar handy to ensure that the time allowed to hop a flight does not elapse. In other words, you have to be alert and flexible! And we were!

To begin, we drove from Maine to our designated air field. OK, the flight was canceled. So, we drove to the next closest air field, where we succeeded in boarding a flight for the first leg of our journey.

After we processed in, all cargo and 77 passengers were loaded onto a C-5A for what we thought was our overseas flight. Then came the announcement. There was to be one more stop, in Bangor, Maine! My husband and I joked about flying to Bangor, especially since we had left Maine two days earlier.

As we waited in the terminal until our plane’s departure, we met a group of the most remarkable people, known as the Maine Troop Greeters. Despite the early morning hour (1 a.m.), they unselfishly awaited the arrival of 300 soldiers.

We joined the Greeters, lined the halls, applauded the soldiers and shook their hands to say “thank you, we know what you are doing for us!”

Not only do the 300 brave soldiers have a mission, but we can’t forget the 77 dependents separated from their loved ones by duty and/or war. What we learned from them, how we shared stories, box lunches and how we became family during the 24 hours we spent there, reinforces the meaning of pride and sacrifice.

I cannot express the mixture of patriotism and sorrow felt as we watched the ceremony surrounding the return of six flag-draped coffins during one of the legs of our journey.

The entire operations at the air field ceased to honor those fallen soldiers. Even through these reminders of the Middle East war, we sometimes soon forget what families and soldiers endure.

Through our uplifting Europe experiences, this trip took on a new meaning, witnessing the history of war and visiting with NATO allied friends who lived through the conflicts and wars in their own land.

And we returned home on a plane bearing a flag-draped coffin, a somber reminder of the continuing war overseas.

Pat Clements

Yarmouth

Give CMP’s customers option on ‘smart meters’

Central Maine Power’s plan to impose “smart meters” on customers’ homes at a time when the radiation involved is under federal investigation as a possible carcinogen shows a callous disregard for Mainers’ well-being.

There are no studies proving these networks are safe; in fact, many people in other states have reported getting sick after installation.

The prudent thing to do is to err on the side of caution, saving customers from potential harm, and I might add, sparing CMP the risk of liability should the CMP spokesman’s claims (“These signals are neither strong or cancer causing — this is not true”) prove less than prescient.

Safer technology can achieve the same results; other states’ utilities have used hard-wired cables and two-way transmitters.

In addition, there is evidence that smart meters interfere with critical care equipment, including wireless insulin and pain pumps, create interference with baby monitors and open the door to security and privacy issues.

Much needs to be learned about the health effects from this technology — and not from consultants whose findings are paid for by the industry they’re reviewing. There is information regarding smart meters, radio frequency and health effects at emfsafetynetwork.org under the “Are Smart Meters Smart?” heading.

At the very least, people should have the right to choose whether they want their families exposed to this.

Doug Cook

Scarborough

We need to pay workers in social services better

The paper recently ran a piece about the nation developing an economy in which hiring will resume, but those in “lower-skill and lower-paying jobs” are left behind.

Working with nonprofits through leadership transitions, I’ve served as interim director to more than a dozen human service organizations and programs. I’ve seen up close the challenge of recruiting and retaining this work force on which so much depends: early childhood educators in child care; residential care workers for people unable to live independently; certified nursing aides in nursing homes and hospices; etc.

These jobs certainly are “lower-paying,” but they’d better not be “lower-skilled.” Ask any parent of a kid in child care, any spouse or adult child of a loved one in a nursing home.

We need to acknowledge that these and similar human service programs require highly skilled and dedicated employees at their front lines, then bite the bullet and fund these programs to support wages and benefits appropriate to such staff.

Something’s very wrong when these workers only earn as much as store clerks or burger flippers.

Don’t tell me that we can’t afford it. Early in my career, everything I’ve said above was true of nurses.

When nurses reached the point that they just weren’t willing to do it anymore (perform daily miracles for modest pay), we realized that we couldn’t provide health care without their help, and we found the funds to fix the problem.

A quarter of a century later, it’s time to acknowledge that the same thing holds true for the direct care workers at the front lines of early childhood education, social services and health care.

Pay these folks what they’re worth, and these growing service sectors can add good jobs to our economy, while workers’ spending contributes to its recovery and strength.

Marjorie Love, MSW

New Gloucester