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Good day.

This weekend, we pay special tribute to the men and women who have served their country and continue to serve in the armed forces.

As we go about our daily lives this Veterans Day weekend, we must remember that there are still Mainers who are in harms way wearing the uniform of the United States of America.

There are soldiers from the Maine National Guard serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and other dangerous posts around the world.

We should keep them in our thoughts and prayers everyday, but especially on Veterans Day.

I recently visited South Korea and Japan on a trade mission to help Maine businesses extend their reach into international markets.

While visiting Seoul, I had the great privilege to meet an extraordinary group of soldiers from Maine serving in the United States Army.

I met with Sgt. Marie Stuart of Augusta, Staff Sgt. Justin Small of Palmyra. I met Private First Class Amanda Mountain of Presque Isle and Spc. Rachel Moore of Liberty and a host of others.

I want these young men and women to know that Maine misses them as much as they miss Maine, and that we pray for their safe return.

They wake up every morning thousands of miles from home, but just miles away from nearly a million North Korean soldiers who answer to the orders of a despotic dictator.

These young soldiers stand on the first line of defense for millions of South Koreans who owe their freedom and democracy to an earlier generation of soldiers who fought – and too often died – to help keep their country free.

We owe these men, and women who serve our country today and those who served in the past, our greatest respect.

In Maine, we take military service seriously.

Recently we had another report, which was released, that demands attention.

According to a Harvard University study, one in eight veterans younger than 65 lacks health insurance. That translates to about 1.8 million veterans nationally who are uninsured.

These are men and women who have bravely served their country, and have come home to find the new enemy they face is economic and health care insecurity.

It’s outrageous and demands a national solution. The time has clearly come to make sure every American – and especially our veterans who have risked their lives for their country – have access to affordable medical care that they need.

In Maine, we’ve built a strong support network for our veterans and our current military personnel. And we continually work to improve the services we can offer.

This January, I will submit legislation that will create a veterans campus in Bangor. Our priorities are to add a new hospice facility, an outpatient clinic and new independent housing for veterans to the existing facility.

The changes won’t happen overnight, but we have a vision for what that campus should be, and we will work to make it happen.

We have similar plans in northern, Downeast, and western and southern Maine – to submit these kinds of models to better take care of our veterans, their families and the support that they need.

I take seriously the responsibility, and will not waiver from my commitment for our veterans.

We talk about service, duty and honor on Veterans Day. Our veterans live up to the meaning of these words every single day.

And just as an aside, I just left a radio broadcast in Augusta where the National Guard has been working hard over the last several years in spite of having served in Afghanistan and Iraq to continue to draw in canned goods for the homeless and the hungry in the Greater Augusta Region.

They have been doing it in enormous pressure, demands, constraints, balancing off all of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their family responsibilities to continue to do this. I don’t know how they do it, but we are lucky to have them. They make our community and our state shine brightly across the nation.

I hope you all will join me in saying thank you to all these men and women who serve this great country.

Have a good day.

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