My dad wore an Air Force uniform for 20-some years — the reason, perhaps, I've always had a special sensitivity toward veterans' issues.
I remember as a kid watching the nightly news and shaking my head in disbelief as footage showed returning Vietnam veterans being booed by crowds — as if the soldiers were somehow responsible for the mess in Southeast Asia. More recently, I recall the horror incited by the 2007 Washington Post series that revealed horrible neglect of wounded veterans at Walter Reed hospital. It's shameful that people who put themselves in harm's way because of patriotic duty can be treated so shabbily.
So I read Contributing Writer Sara Anne Donnelly's cover story, "Jobs for vets," with great interest, hoping this most recent wave of returning G.I.s would have greater public support. Thanks to some recent efforts locally, it seems they have. Organizations to help returning Gulf War II vets find good employment have cropped up, including an effort to match vets with business mentors. Check it out — it might prompt a connection that benefits you and a veteran.
Jobs are on everyone's minds these days. In northern Maine, the focus of this issue, hopes are high that a database of positions within The County's top 50 employers and the skills associated with those jobs will provide the glue to keep young people in the region, which Contributing Writer Derek Rice examines in "Work in progress," starting on page 22. The initiative proposes that integrating projected job skills with curriculum offerings is a way to strengthen work force development and get the word out that there are good-paying, good-quality jobs in even the farthest corners of Maine.
Economic development is also on the minds of folks in Piscataquis County, where the impending completion of the Three Ring Binder broadband project will open new possibilities for earning a good livelihood in Maine's most rural county, as explained by Senior Writer Randy Billings in "Spinal tap," starting on page 26. And finally, Staff Writer Matt Dodge takes a look at the growing biomass industry in northern Maine in "Waste not," starting on page 24, that examines how new federal funds and some novel private financing are propelling that industry.
Speaking of going places, trucking company Hartt Transportation in Bangor is reaping the rewards of investing in technology such as tracking and fuel optimization software. The company, which earned $10 million in the late 1990s, expects to reach $130 million this year. Contributing Writer Bob Mentzinger tells the company's story in "Shifting gears," starting on the cover.
And finally, we got word recently that Mal Leary, the Capitol News Service correspondent who writes our regular column, Capitol Update, is in the hospital battling an infection. Get well, Mal. Who knows what skullduggery might be afoot in Augusta without the dean of the State House press corps presiding.