Sen. Snowe meets with Legionnaires at convention

Posted June 26, 2009, at 9:37 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe spoke Friday to roughly 100 Legionnaires at the 91st American Legion Convention at the Bangor Civic Center.

Legion Posts from across the state meet each year to update constitutional bylaws, vote for new leaders, and to recognize civilians who have helped veterans.

Outside the Center, Snowe, a Republican, said it was important for her to express her gratitude to the men and women of the American Legion who have fought for increased governmental support of veterans services.

“They’re always vigilant, they’re always on the front line,” she said. “They’re sort of the watchdogs that support those who serve our country.”

“When we were struggling at Togus [VA Medical Center] with personnel and funding, they were vigilant,” she said.

Snowe highlighted the increasing proportion of women in the armed services, something she said she would like to see more of in the management at Veterans Affairs.

“Women make up 14 to 17 percent of active forces,” she said, adding, “They play an ever-growing role.”

During her speech, Snowe cited the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which passed the House on Tuesday, June 23, as a sign that support for veterans services might be shifting.

“We’re moving on the right track finally,” she said.

Snowe said that the bill addresses the problem of the lag between when appropriations are passed and when Veterans Affairs gets the money.

She also stressed the importance of shifting military resources from Iraq to Afghanistan.

“We are at a crossroads when it comes to the violence [in Afghanistan],” she said, citing the need to “provide all of the resources that are essential” to combat extremism.

The biggest applause came at the end of the speech, when Snowe pledged to continue to fight for a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

“We will never give up this objective, I can assure you,” she said, though she conceded that “We have a ways to go.”

Snowe voted three times in favor of a law banning flag burning. The last attempt, in 2005, failed to pass by one vote, she said.

Millinocket delegate Charles Stewart, an Army veteran of the Korean War, said afterward he agreed with what Snowe said, as well as the Obama administration’s handling of veterans services.

“She’s pretty right about everything,” he said.

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