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Susan Collins

Rewards of Public Service
By Senator Susan Collins
Jan 11, 2008 - 8:34:05 PM

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Senator Susan Collins represents the State of Maine in the United States Senate.
The holiday recess has given me the opportunity to visit communities all over the state, to meet with constituents, to attend special events, and to visit schools.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I take very seriously my obligation to ensure that the courage and devotion to duty of our men and women in uniform is matched by the support, the equipment, and the training they need to defend our freedom. I am committed to providing our veterans with the health care and other services they have earned by serving our country.

On the personal level, from time to time, a veteran, usually one who served in World War II, will ask me for assistance in securing medals that were earned but never received or have been lost. Such was the case recently when I had the honor of presenting Rene Gobeil of Biddeford with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, as well as other medals that he earned during his service to our country more than 60 years ago.

Mr. Gobeil, now 83, joined the Army in 1943, when he was just 18, and six months later he was already in combat. He fought on the front lines and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, just like my own father. After two years of combat, he came back to his hometown of Biddeford where he was lived ever since. I think it meant a lot to Mr. Gobeil to have his service and sacrifice recognized. I know it meant a lot to me to help him receive that long-overdue recognition.

I also have had the opportunity to visit schools this month. Our nation's teachers are among our most dedicated public servants, and I believe their efforts must be supported.

A great many teachers go the extra mile and spend their own money in order to purchase classroom supplies. Teachers are modestly paid for their challenging jobs, and I think it is impressive that they are willing to dig deep into their own pockets to enrich the classroom experience because they care so deeply for their students. The 2001 tax relief package included a provision I authored to provide these teachers with a tax deduction to recover part of these contributions, and I have worked hard since then to extend and expand this tax credit.

Recently, I joined in recognizing the achievements of a woman who is addressing this issue at the local level. This took place right here in Maine, during the grand opening of the new headquarters for Ruth's Reusable Resources on Blueberry Road in Portland.

If ever there were an example of one person making a difference, it is Ruth Libby. More than a decade ago, she conceived the idea of taking unwanted supplies from area businesses and making them available to local school teachers. Her "store" allows businesses to dispose of unneeded materials and schools to get needed supplies, while keeping perfectly good materials from ending up in landfills. UNUM was instrumental in helping Ruth afford her new location, a huge building that contains all sorts of donated supplies ranging from bolts of felt to boxes of markers to skeins of yarn.

Ruth credits the success of this wonderful endeavor to Maine's long tradition of neighbor helping neighbor. This spirit, which includes our business community, has enabled more than 70,000 students and 7,500 teachers to benefit from resources donated by more than 400 companies.

I was delighted to participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for this new facility and to recognize Ruth, her family, and the scores of volunteers at Ruth's Reusable Resources who give the three R's a whole new meaning. As with helping Mr. Gobeil obtain the medals he earned so long ago, it was wonderful to be able to salute these terrific citizens who have given so much to our communities and our country.

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