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Maine Compass: Gov. Mills has led efforts to truly support veterans

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. As a veteran of the U.S. Navy who served in Vietnam, I often set aside time to remember the honorable people who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and how much I miss them to this very day.

It is also an opportunity to reflect — not just on the sacrifices made by those we lost, but on the risks every veteran takes to protect our country, the bravery that requires, and the debt our nation owes them.

Truly supporting our veterans is about more than platitudes and parades. Despite having put their lives on the line for our nation, there are 1.4 million veterans across the United States living in poverty, including hundreds of thousands who have difficulty even putting food on the table. Veterans in America are more likely to experience homelessness, to face adverse health outcomes, and to die by suicide.

Here in Maine, thanks in large part to the leadership of Gov. Janet Mills, we’ve made an ongoing and consistent effort to stand by our vets, just as they stand by us. With one of the highest percentages of veterans per capita in the nation, all of Maine is strengthened when we prioritize the policies that will allow them to lead fulfilling lives.

The Mills Administration has been steadfast in our shared work to ensure Maine’s veterans can afford dental care, are connected to good employment opportunities, and have a say in Maine’s policymaking process. When the Machias and Caribou Veterans Homes were at risk of closure, it was Governor Mills who made the necessary investment to successfully keep them open.

These specifically targeted actions combined with her expansive efforts to make housing more affordable and job training programs more available have made Maine one of the best states in the country to be a vet. Despite having such a high per capita number of veterans, we have some of the lowest rates of veteran homelessness and poverty.

It was not always this way. Paul LePage, known for fighting against services for Mainers of all stripes, often took aim at the programs helping Mainers who served. He repeatedly tried to cut assistance programs that Maine veterans relied on, and vetoed legislation that would have made it easier for vets to access supplemental income. He also refused to back efforts to provide housing to homeless veterans and make it easier for veterans to transition to civilian jobs.

And veterans were certainly not spared from the litany of other policy failures that marked LePage’s time in office, from his exacerbation of the housing crisis to his selling out of Maine’s workers to his mismanagement of our economy.

In the next couple months leading up the gubernatorial election, you’ll hear a lot from different folks talking about how they support our veterans. There will be photo ops and flag pins, but when it comes to a proven record of working with Democrats, Republicans and independents to provide meaningful support, the choice is clear.

As Mainers celebrate Memorial Day by remembering those who we’ve lost and reflecting on what our veterans have sacrificed, this vet asks you to also do what you can to make sure we don’t go backwards in our commitment to those who have served. That means rejecting Paul LePage, and re-electing Gov. Mills this November.

John Schneck is a former member of the Maine House of Representatives.

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