HARRY ALEXANDER JR. of Brunswick, center right, receives his father’s World War II medals — a Good Conduct Medal, a World War II Victory Medal, and the Honorable Service lapel button, as Maine first lady Ann LePage, Gil Ormsby of the American Legion, and Maine Bureau of Veterans Services Director Peter Ogden look on Saturday in Topsham.

HARRY ALEXANDER JR. of Brunswick, center right, receives his father’s World War II medals — a Good Conduct Medal, a World War II Victory Medal, and the Honorable Service lapel button, as Maine first lady Ann LePage, Gil Ormsby of the American Legion, and Maine Bureau of Veterans Services Director Peter Ogden look on Saturday in Topsham.

TOPSHAM

FIRST LADY ANN LEPAGE presents Darlene Kritzman of Topsham with a Blue Star service banner.

FIRST LADY ANN LEPAGE presents Darlene Kritzman of Topsham with a Blue Star service banner.

Maine first lady Ann LePage was in her element Saturday afternoon as she helped recognize local veterans and their families.

Four families were given Blue Star service banners, including Darlene Kritzman of Topsham.

Her son, Frank Kritzman, a Mt. Ararat High School graduate who joined the Air Force last year, attended basic training and graduated as an honors graduate. He now attends explosive ordinance disposal school.

Of 22 people who took the test to participate, 16 passed and only eight — includeing her son — graduated, she said.

As LePage posed for photos with Kritzman and her new banner, she recalled she knew her family: Kritzman’s mother was neighbors with LePage’s mother growing up.

LePage helped Maine Bureau of Veterans Services Director Peter Ogden to give Harry Alexander Jr., of Brunswick, Alexander’s father’s World War II medals.

Alexander said he wished his father was there to see the medals, and thanked all veterans for fighting for their country.

Joe Toth, of Topsham, was given the Korean War medals — including a Purple Heart with three stars — earned by his father, Michael Toth, who was wounded in action three times.

Korean War veteran Gil Ormsby, of Harpswell, said Michael Toth was one of the highest decorated Korean veterans, with the Silver and Bronze stars, and opined, “He should have had the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

After the ceremony, Joe Toth said the experience was “awesome. Bottom line.”

His father, who he said worked hard, lived hard and died young many years ago, also will receive the Silver Star that hadn’t arrived yet Saturday.

“It tells me he was something else,” Toth said. “He never talked about it. You never knew. I’m 57 years old, and I’m just finding this out now.”

His wife, Jackie, has been researching her father-in-law’s military past and said the man went out into minefields and saved his troops.

LePage said she writes letters to all the recipients of the Blue Star service banners and said the Saturday recognition ceremony was special to her.

Chick Ciciotte, one of the organizers of Saturday’s ceremony, had called LePage about getting some Blue Star letters for the Saturday ceremony.

“So I said, ‘Can I come?’,” LePage said Saturday.

LePage said she and her husband are strong supporters of the military.

“Frankly, I think to not support your military is un-American, plain and simple,” LePage said. “Anything I can do to help or bring awareness to it, for the families, for the military service members, I’m very humbled and proud to do it.”

To be able to hand out a medal or an award to a veteran, “It’s just a humbling experience,” she said.

She said she presents the new Eagle Cane, a program taking on its life of its own, to veterans.

The canes, made by the Maine Wood Carvers, contain a veteran’s whole military history on them.

“I did one for a gentleman in Augusta last September,” LePage said, “and his son called me and said, ‘I want you to know my dad died last week, and he died holding his cane.’ So, that’s what it’s all about.”

When she first knew she was bound for the Blaine House, LePage said she had no idea the impact it would let her make.

“I knew that I wanted to do something that I could become passionate about; something that, I could still be Ann and not the first lady, because I think whatever you do, if you don’t do it from the heart and you’re not genuine, it shows,” she said.

What she does for the military is easy for her, she said, because she loves it, and the veterans.

The most challenging thing? “Talking to the cameras,” she said with a laugh.

LePage said she thinks her husband will run for another term, but “we’ll see.”

When it comes to the military — her biggest passion — LePage said, “Our country is so divided right now but our men and women in uniform, they are not Democrats, they are not Republicans and they’re not independents. They are Americans first and foremost, and that’s the one area the country can come together on, I think.”

Many of those in the military will be coming home and are coming back to no jobs, “so I think if people look to our veteran community when they’re looking to expand their work force or their place of business, I think it’s great. And (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a huge problem too, so there’s a lot of work to do.”

Several other veterans from various conflicts were awarded service appreciation medals at Saturday’s service, held at Topsham American Legion Post 202.

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