Sen. Collins honors vets, reflects on freedom in Freedom

Senator speaks at town's Veterans Day observance
By Ethan Andrews | Nov 11, 2017
Photo by: Ethan Andrews U.S. Sen. Susan Collins speaks to a packed Freedom Congregational Church Nov. 11 at the town's Veterans Day observance.

Freedom — Paul Flynn, one of several speakers at the town's Veterans Day observance Nov. 11, made special mention of the event's "honored guests, the veterans of America's armed services."

A close second, as honored guests go, might have gone to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R- Maine, who traveled to Western Waldo County to speak before a packed house at Freedom Congregational Church.

The 20-year veteran of the Senate used the symbolism of the place as a springboard for her comments on the contributions of military veterans.

"Freedom is more than your town's name," she said. "It's your heritage as well."

Collins paid respects to several milestones in Freedom's history, including its settlement in 1794 by Revolutionary War veteran Stephen Smith and incorporation during the War of 1812, and connected each with the concept of freedom. She noted that Maine has more veterans per capita than all but two states, a fact that elicited murmurs and gasps from the crowd.

The senator recalled, as a child in Caribou, watching the local Veterans Day parade from the shoulders of her father, a World War II veteran. She said America's freedoms now rest on the "strong shoulders" of veterans. "Challenges must be met, and threats confronted," she said, adding that those who have served in the armed forces should be repaid with health care and education.

Saturday's program was organized by the Freedom Recreational Committee. The MC was Tyler Hadyniak. His grandmother and event organizer Sallyann Hadyniak said in past years politicians have sent representatives to deliver their remarks. So, she was surprised when she learned that Collins would appear in person.

"She accepted to come down this year," Hadyniak said, "which just makes it very exciting for all of us."

The Veterans Day observance included readings and comments from residents and a written sentiment from Gov. Paul LePage. The a cappella Kennebec Valley Chordsmen performed the Star Spangled Banner, "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables, and a medley of armed forces anthems, during which they urged veterans and family members, with much success, to cheer for their own branch.

The Chordsmen sang "Happy Birthday" to Freedom's oldest veteran 98-year-old Roy Ward. After the event, as attendees were leaving or heading to the church basement for refreshments, the singers serenaded Collins and her husband with a rendition of Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love."

The Kennebec Valley Chordsmen sing the Star Spangled Banner at Freedom Congregational Church Nov. 11 during the town's Veterans Day observance. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Freedom veterans stand to be recognized at the town's Veterans Day observance Nov. 11. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Freedom's oldest veteran, Roy Ward, 98, applauds after being serenaded by the Kennebec Valley Chordsmen with a rendition of "Happy Birthday." (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins applauds for the Kennebec Valley Chordsmen a cappella group Nov. 11 during a Veterans Day observance at Freedom Congregational Church. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
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