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Monday, Nov. 12, 2012: Veterans, mining and passenger rail

Dear Friends

On Veterans Day, all Mainers unite in their respect for the thousands of residents who have answered our country’s highest call. We are free and strong, thanks to the courage of our servicemen and servicewomen and their patient families. Our thanks must be said and shown.

Today, Ann and I are honored to visit with veterans at the Maine Veterans’ Home and pay our respects at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery. But every day, my administration is advocating for our bravest to make the Maine they return to stronger than the one they were called from to serve. As they fought for our freedom, we will fight to ensure they return to the health and higher-education benefits they’ve earned, that Maine businesses see the value of our veterans in the workplace and that their selfless service is not forgotten.

This commitment is consistent with Maine’s tradition of thanking our nation’s heroes. Wreaths from Washington County are placed on headstones at Arlington National Cemetery each holiday season, and friendly Mainers greet troops as they take their first steps back on American soil at Bangor International Airport.

Our appreciation can be expressed in ways that take a minute — a nod of thanks to the driver with the Purple Heart plate or a quiet prayer for those overseas — or it can last a lifetime — such as through volunteering.

We must never forget that our veterans were willing to give anything so we could have everything. To them, our state says thank you.

Gov. Paul R. LePage and first lady Ann LePage

Bangor greeters

Recently, my wife, daughter and I visited Paris, France. As expected, I spent time people watching as the ladies shopped. One evening, we were in a nice leather goods shop and a gentleman joined me on a sofa.

When he spoke English, I asked where he was from. He said Alabama, and I responded I was from Maine. He stated that he had been in Maine only once. While returning from serving in the military in Iraq, he landed in Bangor. I asked if he had seen the “greeters.” He said, “Wow, did I ever!” Going down the receiving line while in uniform, a greeter, seeing his name tag, asked where he was from. The soldier named a town in Alabama.

The greeter asked whether he knew a man with the same last name and gave a first name. The soldier replied, “That is my father!” The greeter’s reply was that, “One of my proudest moments was serving under your father in Vietnam in 1965.” The soldier then told me that one of his proudest possessions now is a picture of himself and the elderly greeter taken at that time.

I almost came to tears, feeling proud of our military and the “greeters” of Bangor.

Frederic Johnson


Cleanup efforts

I read with interest the BDN article “ Cleanup of toxins continues as Brooksville ponders taking ownership of Callahan Mine site,” (Oct. 26 BDN) about the ongoing cleanup efforts at the Callahan Mine site in Cape Rosier. It’s particularly troubling that a mine that hasn’t produced copper in 40 years is still threatening public health and the environment. But it also hits close to home, as I am a second-generation commercial fisherman operating out of Bristol Bay, Alaska.

For nearly 10 years, a foreign mining conglomerate has been finalizing plans to build the Pebble Mine, which would be the largest open-pit mine in North America. Like the Callahan Mine, it would produce copper. The Pebble Mine is located at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, known across the world for its abundant supply of wild sockeye salmon.

Unfortunately, the mine and its waste could wipe out the Bay’s nearly 130-year-old fishery and endanger the surrounding area, much like the Callahan Mine has done in Maine.

While the Environmental Protection Agency is forced to retroactively clean up the Callahan site, it has the opportunity to proactively protect Bristol Bay, its fishery, and the native people who call the region home. That’s because it spent more than a year conducting a watershed assessment of how large-scale mining like Pebble would affect Bristol Bay and its salmon. The science has proven what we’ve known all along: The mine and the fishery cannot coexist.

I hope the EPA learns lessons from a Superfund site in Maine and applies it to Alaska, as 14,000 commercial fishing jobs, including mine, could be on the line.

Max Hames


Absurd letter

In a recent letter to the BDN a couple wrote about a gay male friend who had decided to marry a woman and was much better off for having done so. The implication is, of course, that all other gay people would be better off doing the same thing. We are to assume from this that sexual orientation is a matter of choice. For the vast majority it is not a matter of choice. People are attracted to each other in a natural way.

Before you ask a gay person to “go straight,” think about the following scenario: You would be required to mate with a person whose gender did not attract you. If this sounds absurd remember that it is exactly what you would require of a gay person if forced to “go straight.” It is equally absurd.

Joe Haroutunian


Natural fit

With the expansion of the Downeaster to Brunswick, and the overall success of the train, Amtrak and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority should look next into the feasibility of expanding service up to Rockland. With relatively little investment, Maine could easily and quickly expand its passenger rail service along the midcoast to increase tourism, mobility, road safety and private investment.

The Eastern Maine Railroad currently operates on the Rockland branch (Brunswick to Rockland) with a scenic train during the summers. However, the communities along the line and Route 1 could undoubtedly benefit from regular rail service. First and foremost, any mass transit that has the ability to take pressure off of Route 1 should be considered. Secondly, the Maine Department of Transportation rebuilt the line not that long ago, allowing the current scenic train to operate around 50 mph.

The costs of new platforms are relatively cheap and could be built quickly in the communities along the rail line. With upgraded signal systems and rail crossings, the train could be quickly and efficiently whisking people up the midcoast. With high volumes of traffic up the midcoast, a rebuilt rail line between Brunswick and Rockland and Amtrak’s resources, expanding daily Downeaster service to Rockland is a natural fit.

Eben Sweetser


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