Having recently received great service at the Togus Veterans Affairs Medical Center, I write to say, “Thanks.”

In 1979, I joined the Navy. I wasn’t a patriot. I just needed a job. My father and older brother went Navy, so I went Navy.

I worked hard, made rank and helped my shipmates advance. But I was too young and rebellious to serve with distinction, so I was discharged honorably, but prematurely.

Today I’ve received my paperwork updating my VA health care status. For a vet like me with no service-related injuries, the VA offers efficient basic health care — a godsend these days when self-employed persons like myself work double time to buy coverage at all.

Our taxpayers fund this benefit; so does the sacrifice of those working for the VA. From the doctors down to those answering the phones, all work with pride while being paid less than their commercial counterparts, to serve us veterans.

We know that VA medicine faces challenges and criticism. The system was unprepared for the number and severity of the casualties from Afghanistan and Iraq. The backlog of care for which the wounded wait every day is disgraceful.

While military and industrial computerization is state of the art, the VA’s systems are decades old. Veterans’ post-traumatic stress disorder issues, joblessness and homelessness demand solutions. But they’re working the problems, doing what they can with dedication.

I’m thankful that President Obama has asked Congress every year to increase spending for Veterans Affairs, and Congress has agreed.

I’ll meet my primary care physician soon, paying the co-pays asked of me, who served so briefly and emerged whole. I want to stay healthy to watch my own son, serving today in the Navy, become a thankful vet like me, receiving the benefits of his great nation.

Mark Minervino


Well-funded critics fighting South Portland ordinance

Matt Byrne’s article about South Portland’s citizen initiative (“Rival camps dig in on South Portland waterfront zoning,” Sept. 15) quotes a city councilor saying this is going to be a “fair fight.”

He then describes the opposition’s six-figure budget, its team of professional advisers and media consultants, its glossy direct-mail and robocalling initiatives, its radio, print and television ads and, of course, its lawyers — from Maine’s biggest firms and beyond.

This is the army lined up against volunteers who plan to spend their Saturdays and Sundays walking the city, knocking on doors, armed only with facts and their unremunerated concern. I question which aspects of this match-up strike anyone as balanced.

I am disappointed but not surprised that a special interest with unlimited resources has co-opted small-d democratic rhetoric, using themes like “Working Waterfront Week,” forging strategic but shallow allegiances with business owners and presenting voters with a false choice between jobs and community well-being. It is a classic and obvious tactic, but I fear it may be effective on a middle-class economy barely emerging from recession.

The proposed ordinance protects businesses in the affected zone and allows for growth. The petroleum facilities within the zone are the only businesses that would see their permitted uses more thoughtfully defined, and even those uses are protected.

South Portland has encouraged starter homes, elderly housing and a community college to grow in the shadow of the zone under debate. We spent $40 million to make safety improvements at a school that abuts this zone.

Byrne closes with a quote from a business owner who fears the effect of the ordinance on his business: “It could impact the future, for my children and their children, and their abilities in what they can and can’t do.” Well said: That is exactly the reason to vote for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.

Susan Hasson

South Portland

End corporate tax loopholes before cutting aid to needy

Maine is facing the seventh highest level of very low food security in the nation.

Many of our children, veterans, elderly and poor working families rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to get enough food on the table every month.

And yet, the House has passed a bill that would dramatically cut SNAP.

This bill would eliminate basic food assistance for millions of Americans and many of our neighbors.

I applaud Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree for their continued support of this important program and for standing up against the far-off priorities of the Republican leadership.

These reckless cuts are just the latest in a series of attempts to eliminate assistance to struggling Americans while ignoring the fact that large corporations are not paying their fair share into our system.

Instead of cutting SNAP by $40 billion over 10 years, why don’t we look at the $50 billion over 10 years that could be regained if we, for example, close the corporate loophole that lets large corporations get a tax deduction when they give their CEOs “performance-based” bonuses?

It is time for Congress to get its priorities straight. Cutting SNAP while letting corporations protect their millions through tax loopholes isn’t a way to a better nation and just isn’t fair.

Linda Sprague


Snorkeler’s Fort Gorges visit reveals sad ecological decline

Maine’s environment is fragile. I’ve spent a lot of time this summer snorkeling in and around Portland. I’m surprised and dismayed at how dirty the water is and how relatively lifeless the seabed is.

There are no more sea urchins, few starfish, few flounder or other fish, some stripers, to be sure, and crabs, of course. The seaweed is still very pretty, but it won’t be long before that is harvested to complete depletion.

Nevertheless, I recently went out to Fort Gorges to take a look. I thought there might be a good deal of interesting life to see around the island.

It was depressingly murky, dirty and dead, aside from a few fiddler crabs.

The myth of the pristine Maine environment is quickly disappearing right under our noses, unless you pay attention. When it’s gone, it will be gone for a very long time.

Benson Dana

Cape Elizabeth