News: Maine military funeral honors program recognized for excellence by governor
Story by Sgt. Angela Parady
AUGUSTA, Maine - “Every day is unique, like a tumbleweed from the old wild west movies,” said Jason. “You just don’t know what way the wind will blow.”
Pfc. Jason Smith, along with 16 other members of the Maine Military Honors Funeral Program, was honored Wed, Dec. 4 with a luncheon at the Blaine House with Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage, and first lady Ann LePage.
The service members were invited to meet with the governor to recognize the significance of completing the rendering of honors for 10,000 funerals in Maine since 2003, when the program first began.
Smith, a construction engineer for the 262nd Engineer Company in Westbrook, enlisted in the National Guard just over a year ago. When he returned to Maine from basic training his platoon sergeant asked him if he might be interested in the Honor Guard program. What began as a part time job eight months ago has become something Smith never wants to give up. Smith currently resides in Springfield, and said he is rewarded with the leadership and training he receives as part of his role, making him ready to give 100 percent at all services, and always ready for anything.
“These men and women stand in all weather conditions, unable to break their composure for an hour or more to give honors to fallen soldiers and their family,” said Smith. “We are often that family’s lasting impression of their loved one, and we bear these conditions for them. These families are suffering. Their loved one is gone. To be able to give them a flag, with a few words of comfort in recognition for their loved ones service, is worth it all.”
Smith said he felt the personal recognition from the governor and first lady helped give encouragement and bring visibility to the work of the men and women who volunteer their time for this program.
LePage thanked the service members for their admirable work, their dedication, and for representing the state well during all of their events. He said Maine’s profound dedication and service to the country means that Maine has a large population of veterans.
“Our brave men and women, and their families have shouldered the price, and all too often the ultimate sacrifice is made,” said LePage. “I have written too many letters of condolence to the families of the fallen. It is, by far, the most difficult part of my job. What I do hope families take from these words, however, is how deeply appreciative I am for their sacrifice. They have fought for us, and died for us, and it is our duty to show that we are grateful for all of our fallen heroes.”
The Maine Military Honors Funeral Program also participates in community events, presentation of the colors at major league sports and school functions, and dedications for veterans, such as a 21 gun salute.