BANGOR, Maine — The American Legion, the world’s largest veterans organization, is a group that knows how to support all military veterans and the organizations and individuals that support them.
The American Legion Department of Maine, which held its 92nd convention at the Bangor Civic Center over the weekend, strives every year to find and honor a select few from around the state who give back to their communities.
“It’s part of our service to the community,” said State Adjutant Lloyd Woods, who helped organize this year’s convention.
Four Mainers were given accolades for their service to their respective communities.
“When you need them, they’re there,” Woods said.
Fire Chief Darren Woods of Caribou, who leads the North Lakes Fire & Rescue, was honored as the Firefighter of the Year. North Lakes Fire & Rescue is one department with three substations that cover four Unorganized Territories in Aroostook County.
Marolyn Bibber of Harpswell, who works for Harpswell Volunteer Ambulance, was awarded the Emergency Medical Technician of the Year.
Cpl. Ryan McGee of the Lisbon Police Department, was named the Law Officer of the Year.
This year’s Humanitarian of the Year honor was given to Fort Kent resident Ronald Jandreau, who “bent over backwards to help” a neighbor get back and forth to various doctor’s appointments.
“He does this all by himself,” Woods said. “He’s done this on his own for quite a while.”
The Legion convention began Friday and ran through Sunday and was an opportunity for Legionnaires from across the state, along with auxiliary ladies and Sons of The American Legion, to get together socially and to conduct annual business, such as elect new officers.
“We had a good turnout — just under 300,” Woods said.
The weekend event included a number of state dignitaries, such as keynote speaker U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who gave a patriotic speech that lauded American Legion achievements, and others by U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, and Gov. John Baldacci.
Baldacci said Sunday that he made sure to thank the Legion members during his speech for all they do to support active soldiers, fellow veterans and veterans services. With Maine military units deployed overseas, it’s very important those soldiers and their families are supported from home, and have resources when they return, he said.
“The family support services are top flight,” Baldacci said.
Numerous Legion units from across the state have sent items — candy, baby wipes, powders, body wash — to those serving overseas.
The governor also urged Legion members to protect veterans services already in place.
“We need to fight to support the veterans homes we have, and Togus [VA Medical Center],” Baldacci said. “It’s important.”
During elections held Saturday at the convention, Daniel Ayotte of Augusta was named the new state commander, and Brenda Dearborn of Gardiner was elected first vice commander.
Ayotte replaces Andy Olson of Stockholm.