DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Maine residents care so much about their country and freedom that 16 percent of the state’s population are veterans, the highest percentage of any state in the nation, according to the head of the Maine Army National Guard.
“We don’t tend to think of ourselves as the state necessarily with a great military tradition, but we are,” Maj. Gen. John W. Libby, adjutant general of the Maine Army National Guard, told veterans gathered Tuesday at the Chadbourne-Merrill American Legion Post. “We’re No. 1 and that speaks volumes about who we are and our willingness to share our sons and daughters with this nation.”
Libby was in Dover-Foxcroft to help the local post recognize and honor 18 veterans who served in the Korean War, the so-called “forgotten war.” That designation, Libby believes, came about because the Korean War was sandwiched between World War II, a conflict of immense proportions that brought worldwide attention, and the Vietnam War, the first war people could watch on their television sets.
People neither forget World War II nor the images from Vietnam, Libby said. Lost historically between those two conflicts is the Korean War and its 39,000 American deaths. It may be lost historically, but it’s not lost on those who care deeply about the nation, Libby added.
The sacrifice of those men and women will not be forgotten, nor will the continued sacrifice the nation will pay in Afghanistan and elsewhere, according to Libby, who noted the two most recent deaths of Maine men serving abroad.
Libby, who wished the Marine Corps, which turned 235 years old Wednesday, a happy birthday, said Maine has an active contingent of servicemen and women. He noted that the 1136th Transportation Company of the Maine Army National Guard, which is serving in Afghanistan, is expected to return next Monday to the United States, landing in Indiana. The Bravo Company-3-172 Mountain Infantry Battalion is expected to return next month. There are 173 members of the transportation company and 157 members of Bravo Company deployed.
The plan now, Libby said, is for the state’s Army National Guard to go for about a year without any troops in Iraq or Afghanistan before the state’s entire aviation community returns the following year for its third tour of duty in Iraq.
In addition to the Army National Guard, Libby also praised the Maine Air National Guard, which, he said, “quietly” does its job without a lot of recognition because it does not deploy big formations that get the attention of the press.
The “dirty little secret” about the air guard is its members pump more jet fuel out of Bangor International Airport than any active duty unit does throughout the world, he noted.
Even less well known, Libby said, is the Air National Guard communications squadrons, whose members install and maintain communication networks throughout the world and are now located in eight different countries.
While Libby recognized the veterans and the men and women on active duty, he also paid tribute to those who died, the missing in action and the prisoners of war in advance of Veterans Day.
“It’s difficult for me, as I’m sure it’s difficult for many of you on that day, to remember the brothers and sisters we served with that didn’t come home,” Libby said. “While I always look forward to Veterans Day, I look forward to it with a bittersweet taste in my mouth.”