Paul Loveless, 80, served for 27 years in the Navy but has spent more time in retirement helping other veterans. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Paul Loveless didn’t owe anyone anything after 27 years of service in the U.S. Navy, a career that started in the late 1950s when he was a seaman recruit and included numerous overseas deployments as a naval flight officer, including during the Vietnam War.

But he’s given it back and then some.

Loveless has now spent more years assisting fellow veterans than he did in the active military, including in his current role with the Mid-Coast Veterans Council on the former Navy base in Brunswick, which happened to be his first duty station. He lives across the Androscoggin River in Topsham.

“I’ll do it until it’s no longer fun. That’s the only honest answer I can give,” Loveless said last month from his tidy office, where veterans and their family members sit opposite him seeking help navigating the labyrinth of benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs. “I just like helping people.”

The 80-year-old has built his entire life around military service, but as veterans from his own era and others  grow old and die, he recognizes that’s increasingly rare.

“I think there is an apathy that comes from all the negative things that get said about the military,” Loveless said. “And I think what will happen eventually is we’ll have to go back to a draft because the number of people who want to serve, or who are physically able to serve, will be so small.”


For Loveless, interest in serving his country came early. He enlisted in the Navy reserves while he was still in high school in Ithaca, New York. Her served almost three years in the reserves but then shifted to active duty to have more control over what skills he might learn and where he might end up.

Early in his training, Loveless volunteered to fly Navy aircraft and it stuck. He was sent to the air station in Brunswick, which had been commissioned during World War II. It closed permanently in 2011.

“When I first got my orders … everybody said, ‘You’re not going to like it up there,’ ” Loveless recalled. “They said people are hard to get to know and I didn’t find it that way.”

In fact, he liked Maine so much, he returned for good in 1989 after he left naval service, which included tours in Vietnam flying P2 and P3 patrol planes.

Two 12-person patrol crews from Brunswick were lost during Vietnam. Loveless and his crew made it back safely. He stayed in touch with all of them for years but is the only one still living.

Many veterans who served in Vietnam had no interest in furthering their military careers. Loveless made a life of it. He saw the world.

When he returned to Maine after retiring from service to raise his family (two sons and a daughter), he wasn’t quite ready to give up that part of his identity yet. So he started working in the VA activities office one day a week, while shouldering a civilian job. When that ended, it became five days a week.

And when the nonprofit Mid-Coast Veterans Council launched in 2012, Loveless moved there and hasn’t left.

“A lot of Vietnam veterans are hesitant to get involved with the VA because they got such a bad taste for it when they left the service,” he said. “But the VA has changed dramatically. So if I can connect them, or their widows, with benefits and resources they have earned, well that’s makes it worthwhile.”

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