Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Holiday Wishes and Reflections
Celebration and family are at the heart of the holidays. It is a time of giving to those less fortunate, remembering our troops around the world who are fighting to keep us safe, and reflecting on the year gone by.
Ann and I recently had the opportunity to visit one of the most sacred grounds of our nation, Arlington National Cemetery. As the final resting place for more than 400,000 military war casualties and their families, dating back to the Civil War, I, again, was reminded about the true value of freedom. Freedom is not free – it is a privilege bestowed upon us thanks to the bravery and dedicated service of our military members.
It is a humbling experience to walk the rolling hills laying wreaths on the gravestones of America’s heroes. A national shrine, the cemetery is a living history of American freedom.
The names engraved in stone served our nation with dignity and honor. We are forever grateful and treat their families with respect and compassion.
I would like to share a story of one veteran we visited. Before my wife and I left, Ann received a note from a Navy veteran, Gair MacKenzie, from Bridgton, who wrote about the life of Commander Robert Schlegel, of the United States Navy, a shipmate and friend.
Commander Schlegel was born in Gray and was the first Mainer killed as a result of the terrorist act on the Pentagon September 11, 2001. He was 38 years old.
Commander Schlegel’s gravestone is located at Arlington and paid our respects. Ann and I laid a wreath and our family said a prayer. It was a humbling moment we will never forget.
Our Nation lost a great many people, yet our spirit is not broken. We continue to fight in the name of freedom because it is the foundation which our land symbolizes.
On Friday, I spoke by video phone with the 488th Military Police Company from Waterville and Houlton. One hundred Soldiers from the unit are in Afghanistan. They deployed in July and we anticipate their safe return in about six months.
I also spoke with members of Charley Company First of the 126th Aviation from Bangor. The unit, with 79 Soldiers, is in Kuwait. They deployed in May and will return in January.
Additionally, four members of the 121st Public Affairs Detachment are in Kosovo. And one of those members was able to join us.
As you and I are fortunate to celebrate with family and friends, the holidays are especially difficult for families with deployed loved ones. It was an honor to thank them for their service and let them know they are in our thoughts and prayers.
We prayed for many fellow Americans throughout the year and especially in recent days. Let us be thankful as Christmas nears for our family, children, friends and community. In times of tragedy we band together as Americans. 9-11 proved America’s resolve and Sandy Hook is doing the same. We move forward, but we never forget.
God Bless America and I wish you and yours the very best as we head into the New Year.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all.