Veterans home closures are devastating

2 years ago

To the editor:

The slated closing of our Maine Veterans Homes in Machias and Caribou is devastating not only to Washington and Aroostook County veterans but also their loved ones who depend on these facilities for critical long-term care.

Ms. Linda Nadeau from Wade recently contacted me about the circumstance facing her own mother, 98-year-old Florence M. (Howe) Kinney.

Florence is the last known female World War II veteran in Aroostook County. Linda has lovingly cared for her mother Florence for the past 20 years, but given her mother’s physical and mental condition, she can no longer fulfill the role as her primary caregiver.

When Linda submitted her application to the Maine Veterans’ Home in Caribou, she was informed they were no longer accepting new veterans due to the impending closure. She was told to look elsewhere. Sure enough, the shortage of nursing home beds in northern Maine due to the lack of funding from the state, and our workforce shortages, are complicating the search.

When Florence returned from the war, she became a licensed hairdresser, worked in factories, was an outreach worker at ACAP, worked with Maine Gov. Joseph Brennan, and was instrumental in assisting Sister Mary O’Donnell in establishing the Presque Isle Homeless Shelter. As Linda also pointed out to me, during her lifetime, she married and buried two husbands and had eight children.

Linda wrote, “Now nearing the age of 98 she cannot get the help she needs at a veterans home?  Something is, or has gone, terribly wrong!” 

Frankly Linda, I agree. Something has gone terribly wrong.

Several weeks ago I called for the Mills administration and the Maine Legislature to step up and save the Machias and Caribou facilities and protect our elderly veterans. Protecting our most vulnerable populations and honoring our servicemen and women must be the absolute No. 1 priority of our elected leaders. It is unconscionable that Florence and her loved ones are facing this situation.

Florence and her fellow veterans deserve our highest appreciation and sincere gratitude for their honorable and faithful service to this nation.

Paul R. LePage
74th Governor of Maine