HAMPDEN, Maine — The former commander of the Hampden Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4633 said that with 19 years in the Senate working for Maine and its veterans, Susan Collins was easily his nomination for the 2017 VFW Congressional Award — given annually to only one lawmaker in Washington D.C.

“I submitted her name for it,” Raymond R. Lupo, National Council Member for the VFW, and longtime member of Hampden post, said Monday. “I submitted her name because of the fact she’s backed vets for a long, long time. She’s a veteran advocate and she’s dedicated.”

VFW National Commander Brian Duffy, Maine Commander Steven SanPedro of Windham, Lupo and six other VFW officials from Maine were on hand to deliver the prestigious national award to Collins on Friday.

The list of her accomplishments in regards to veterans is lengthy, Lupo said, listing extending insurance coverage for the military and their families, improving the Veterans Choice Program, leading efforts to end sequesters and increase military pay, and adding more community-based outpatient clinics, including one in Aroostook County.

“Under Choice, they can go to their local doctors in Aroostook County instead of driving to Togus [Medical Center] in Augusta,” Lupo said, saying saving money and travel time, and reducing stress are major benefits for veterans.

Duffy told Collins that she was chosen for the award, because of her “unwavering support of veterans, service members, their families, and national security programs [that] continue to strengthen America,” the VFW website states.

“Out of all of the awards that I have received, this one is really special to me,” Collins said in a release statement. “As many VFW and Auxiliary members from Maine know, my father is a WWII veteran who was wounded twice in the Battle of the Bulge. He earned a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. It was from him that I learned to honor and respect our veterans.”

The VFW Congressional Award had been presented to one sitting member of the House or Senate annually for more than 50 years. Bernie Sanders earned the award in 2015.

VFW or VFW Auxillary members Peter Miesburger and Andre Dumas from Caribou, David Williams from Rumford, Adrian Cole from Lisbon Falls, Kim Baldwin from Franklin and Lynn Dunton from Livermore were also on hand for the award presentation.

Collins is a life member of VFW Auxiliary Post 9389 in Caribou.

“Anytime we have a legislative objective she’s always there to listen,” Lupo said. “There is not a time of day that we can’t get ahold of her.”