Here we are, a little more than two weeks past the Thanksgiving holiday and, not coincidentally, COVID-19 infections are spiking. New grim records are being set every day. Even the perpetually positive and upbeat Dr. Shah looks wiped.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

According to the Maine CDC, over 73% of the state’s population has received their second dose of the vaccine, which is fantastic and above the national average. However, we lag in boosters and there are large segments of our state population that remain unvaccinated. Not surprisingly, that is where we are seeing the cases rise.

Suddenly, we are in the same dire predicament as everywhere else. Our hospitals are full and our systems are cracking. In fact, last week the numbers became so overwhelming that Gov. Janet Mills decided to deploy the National Guard to help meet this crisis.

As sad and frustrated as I am by the need to call them up, I am equally grateful for their service.

The National Guard is, without a doubt, amazing. Did you know that the Guard is actually the nation’s oldest organized fighting force? It was founded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in December 1632, well before this country was even a country.

 It began as a civilian force and remains so to this day. The men and women who serve live in their own homes and work at their “ordinary” – maybe a better phrase is nonmilitary – careers, training intensely one weekend a month. In general, they serve within the state where they live, although members of the Guard have been sent to other states and even abroad when needed.


Not only is it the nation’s oldest branch of the military, the Guard is also the only one that serves as both a state and federal force. This places them into situations no other branch faces.

The thing I did know about the Guard is that they step up.

When the worst happens, when there has been a national disaster, a terrorist attack, an outbreak of disease, they are there. They have combatted wildfires and cleaned up after hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. They responded after the attacks of 9/11 and helped to secure the Capitol in January.

They willingly disrupt their regular routines, and when danger looms, these men and women, our neighbors, set aside the comforts of their lives, set aside the needs of their careers and step up.

It is impressive.

Here in Maine during this crisis, the governor has activated the Guard to provide support in two ways. Members of the Guard will support nursing facilities that care for COVID patients in order to free up beds in hospitals. They will also be administering monoclonal antibody treatment to keep infected people out of the ICU in the first place, allowing hospitals to focus on those requiring emergency treatment and life support. These are large jobs, stressful jobs, essential jobs.

I am frustrated and saddened that the situation in our state has come to this. I am grateful to the men and women who serve for being there to answer this call and help get our state through this crisis. I am hopeful that vaccinations will increase and masks will be worn, helping us to flatten the curve. Until then, thank you members of the National Guard. We are in your debt.

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