John Wagner presents Albert W. Farris Jr. with an award for his service at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Brunswick American Legion George T. Files Post 20 headquarters on Monday. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — The American Legion Post 20 in Brunswick recognized servicemen and women, or as speaker John Wagner put it, “those among us who’ve been part of our great brotherhood and sisterhood” known as the United States Military on Monday, placing special attention on ways to honor veterans not just on Veterans Day, but every day. 

The nearly 100 gathered to acknowledge the men and women who are still missing in action through a place setting for one ceremony and presented awards to about 15 veterans, for their service in conflicts from WWII to the Cold War. 

Boy Scouts salute during the national anthem at a Veteran’s Day ceremony in Brunswick. Hannah LaClaire/The Times Record

Wagner, a 26 year Navy veteran and Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialist for the Maine Department of Labor, thanked his fellow veterans for their service and sacrifice, which he said has kept the country safe and free. 

He tries to say thank you and to give back to his fellow veterans in the best way he knows — by helping them find work. 

Nationally, the veteran unemployment rate is 3.2%, according to the Department of Labor, slightly lower than the “non-vet” rate of 3.5%. Last year’s veteran unemployment rate of 3.5% was the lowest it has been since 2000. 

Through his job and through working with the Maine Hire a Vet campaign, he has played a part in finding jobs for 286 veterans and their family members in the last year alone, through organizing job fairs and helping with resume development and interview preparation. 

“The best way to help a veteran is to give them a job,” he said. 

Organizers of the Brunswick Veteran’s Plaza project unveiled a new design Monday which will incorporate an additional 125 blocks honoring veterans. Contributed photo. 

Brunswick is also honoring veterans in a more literal sense, through a $320,000 veterans plaza, scheduled to open on Veterans Day 2020. On Monday, organizers unveiled a new design for the monument to incorporate 125 more “honor blocks:”445 engraved granite blocks honoring specific veterans with their names, branch and dates of service or conflict fought in, but not their rank. 

The plaza is a monument — not a memorial — designed to honor all veterans who have served the United States, regardless of rank, branch, conflict or status. Fundraising is almost complete. 

The monument will incorporate the existing downtown monument, which will be rotated 180 degrees, as well as a separately funded purple heart monument. Twelve sentinel posts surrounding the plaza will represent the 12 recognized major American conflicts spanning from the American Revolution through the Global War on Terror. According to organizer Tom Farrell, it will be the first of its kind, honoring not just a specific branch of veterans or those who lost their lives, but all who have served in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard or Merchant Marines.

The sentinels will surround a center medallion with a graphic of an American eagle over the stars and stripes, surrounded by terms selected by local veterans: integrity, courage, respect, loyalty, valor, honor, duty, selfless service and pride. Even the landscaping was chosen with care; the surrounding trees and flowers will all bloom in shades of red and white. 

The plaza was originally slated to be opened for Veteran’s Day 2019, but after “unforeseen changes” in the construction market, the committee decided to push the date back by a year and increase the fundraising goal of $250,000, which Farrell said earlier was already “aggressive,” to $320,000.

Fundraising is almost complete, according to Farrell, and the committee will continue to fundraise, adding any additional money to a maintenance trust to ensure the plaza is cared for “in perpetuity.” 

“Whether you believe in God or not, his hand has walked through this more than once,” said David Watson, Commander of American Legion Post 20 and a Brunswick Town Councilor, adding that the project is “long overdue.”

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