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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

This week on Veterans Day we honored the men and women who have served in our military.

The holiday can be traced back to 1918 and the end of World War I. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, peace came to Europe.

Originally called Armistice Day, November 11th was set aside to celebrate the end of fighting on the Western Front and to honor the 20 million people who where killed during the war.

After World War II, Armistice Day became Veterans Day in the United States.

And each year since, we have paid our respect to the men and women who have worn the uniform of our country.

Born as a day to commemorate peace, this year we were tragically reminded that we remain a nation at war.

On Veterans Day, a memorial service was held for Marine First Lt. James Zimmerman in Houlton.

James was killed in Afghanistan on November 2.

A graduate of the Greater Houlton Christian Academy, James worked hard to achieve his goal of becoming an officer in the Marine Corps.

A former headmaster described him as “quite simply, a fine young man.”

Just six days after James’ death, another soldier from Maine died in Afghanistan.

Army Specialist Andrew Hutchins, just 20 years old and awaiting the birth of a child, was killed by enemy fire.

Words cannot do justice to the sacrifice these young men, and too many others before, have made for their country.

The parades and banners and flag-lined streets, the marching Cub Scouts and patriotic music, perhaps offer some measure of solace to the mourning families.

Or at least demonstrate, in a small way, that we are thankful to the men and women who serve our country and to their families for burden they carry.

As John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

We have an obligation, as a State and a nation, to remember that we are at war, and that we have put soldiers in harm’s way – even when the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq have slipped from the headlines.

It is our responsibility to support their families through the hardships of separation, fear and uncertainty.

And it is our job to take care of our soldiers when they are in a war zone and when they come home.

Later this month, members of the 172nd Infantry of the Maine National Guard will begin to come home after being deployed for almost a year.

The unit is one of two from the Maine Guard serving in Afghanistan. The other is the 1136th Transportation Company.

The 330 soldiers who make up these units have faced challenges and dangers that most of us can only imagine.

They have served honorable and carried out their missions with the utmost integrity and professionalism.

As their work nears completion, ours must continue.

They need to know that our help to restart their lives will not be put on hold.

To men and women serving today, and the thousands of veterans who have served through the years, you have earned our lasting respect and gratitude.

On behalf of a grateful State, thank you.

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