By Debra Bell
of the Weekly Staff
When Veterans of Foreign War Ladies Auxiliary President Leanne Lemley arrived in Bangor on Friday, March 15, she was greeted by a color guard made up of Auxiliary members and VFW members as well as local dignitaries.
Lemley arrived in Bangor as part of a nationwide tour. Prior to arriving in Bangor, she had toured 50 Ladies Auxiliary departments, one per state. After visiting Maine, the only department left is in Alaska. She began her term as president on July 25, 2012 and will end her term this July.
Bangor City Council Chair Nelson Durgin presented Lemley with a proclamation from the City of Bangor in recognition of her visit. Maine Ladies Auxiliary State President Cindy Cowling was also recognized for her work in the Bangor community through the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, as well as her service to the United States Army.
“Bangor has supported the U.S. military in every war we fought,” Durgin said. “It’s always a pleasure to recognize people here in Bangor.”
Bangor’s dedication to the troops is nationally known thanks to the movie “The Way We Get By.” So it’s no surprise that Lemley was greeted by Maine Troop Greeters, including two therapy shih tzu dogs named Opie and Skylar, their handlers, and the president of the Bangor Troop Greeters, Chuck Nolan.
More than 1.5 million troops have gone through Bangor on deployment and upon returning, Durgin said. There are approximately 107 troop greeters on call, so when a flight arrives, support is ready.
“We’re the nation’s door to these guys,” Nolan said. “[Bangor is] wonderfully located. Our mission is to welcome these guys. If they’re going overseas, we’re here to wish them a safe trip; if they’re coming back to [welcome them] home with a handshake and a smile.”
That sentiment wasn’t lost on Lemley, who joined the VFW Ladies Auxiliary in 1964. Before that she was a member of Junior Girls. She also witnessed first-hand the support offered by the VFW and the Ladies Auxiliary to her mother and her father, a World War II veteran.
“I saw the difference [this organization] made in peoples lives and how it’s touched and helped those in need,” Lemley said. “It touched my heart. But I’m not anything compared to [the veterans]. They’re the ones who have sacrificed so much and their families have too.”