In honor of Veterans Day, I’d like to thank all who serve, and have served, in the military, law enforcement, and their families.

For those of us who have never seen combat, or never had to send a loved one into harm’s way, we cannot possibly know what it is like to live that reality. Your courage and sacrifice enable the rest of us to live our day-to-day lives in safety. That is near the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, only less important than the physiological needs of food, water and sleep. Unless a person has safety, nothing else meaningful can happen in their existence. So we, quite literally, owe our lives to those who serve, protect, and defend.

I’d also like to acknowledge first lady Ann LePage for her tireless work on behalf of veterans across our state. Her unwavering support for current military personnel, veterans, and their family members has made a tremendous difference in the lives of those who serve. While the list of veterans’ organizations she works with is long, one of the most inspiring has to be the Travis Mills Foundation.

As one of only five surviving quadruple amputees from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ret. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills now travels the country as a motivational speaker, bringing his mantra of “Never give up, never quit” to countless audiences. His book,”Tough as They Come,” was released two weeks ago, and there is also a documentary film, “Travis: A Soldier’s Story,” that tells Mills unimaginable, inspiring story.

Having purchased cosmetic giant Elizabeth Arden’s former estate in Mount Vernon, Maine, the Travis Mills Foundation is scheduled to open a retreat there for veterans in 2017. This will be a “smart-home” facility, offering wounded veterans and their families a place to connect with each other on grounds that boast stunning Maine vistas. The foundation has raised about $174,000 of the estimated $2.7 million needed to completely rehab the property; contributions are being accepted at

In addition to supporting the Travis Mills Foundation, LePage proudly announced her assistance with launching the Hire-A-Vet campaign. Sponsored by the Maine Department of Labor, the Hire-A-Vet goal is to have 100 Maine employers hire 100 veterans in 100 days. Through Nov. 5, just over its halfway mark, the campaign has 127 employers participating, with 129 veterans hired. Veterans are encouraged to visit the DOL Career Centers website for assistance with finding employers who prioritize the hiring of veterans for open positions.

Other organization that offers veterans services are Easter Seals Maine and the Maine Military and Community Network. Both of these organizations can connect veterans with services and link them to further assistance.

I’d like to offer my sincere gratitude to all who serve, and their families, and to the first lady for making the lives of our veterans a priority in the LePage administration. Veterans are the true heroes of our day, and they deserve the support and recognition that come with that hero status. May God bless and keep them and their families, this Veterans Day, and every day.

Julie McDonald-Smith lives in North Yarmouth. She is a registered nurse, former Capitol Hill staffer, publicity chairwoman of the Cumberland County Republican Committee, and occasional guest host on WGAN 560AM. Her column appears every other week.

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