AUGUSTA – Quite the turnout in Augusta Friday for veterans who registered to receive special recognition from the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services.
One by one, veterans from Maine were honored at the Maine State House Friday, getting both a certificate of appreciation and an honorable service coin from Governor Janet Mills.
“It’s nice to have one big group, that’s what’s really kind of neat, that everybody’s here because we’re all veterans and we’re all being honored for our service,” said Debra Couture, who served in the U.S. Navy for 24 years.
In the past, in order to receive a coin, you had to be a veteran of World War II, Vietnam or Korea.
The new coin unveiled is for every Maine vet, regardless of when and where they served.
There were a couple former military members present that got everyone’s attention, like World War II veteran Donald Pushard, who spent four years overseas, and was honored just to be honored.
“My service means quite a bit to me,” said Pushard. “We appreciate how they feel things for us, they’re doing good and we appreciate it very much.”
And Ernie DeRaps, who was out on the North Atlantic during World War II, looking for submarines.
“I decided I better attend because I’m one of the oldest guys around and there aren’t many World War II veterans still around,” said DeRaps of Friday’s ceremony. “So I had to come and do my little bit for everybody.”
The coins stem from the tradition of military members carrying challenge coins. A plaque depicting the honorable service coin for all Maine vets will soon hang in the Hall of Flags at the state house, as a permanent way to say thank you.
“I only did what I had to do,” said DeRaps. “The only thing I can say is like I told these folks here, keep active, be on the move, and enjoy life.”