BANGOR — The Disabled American Veterans Department of Maine’s held its 41st State Convention May 1-3 at the Four Points Sheraton at the Bangor Airport where the organization has met for approximately 12 years.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage and Mrs. ann LePage helped open the convention. They shared their thoughts and concerns and thanked attendees for their service.

Rob McQuillan, commander of Chapter 1 in Augusta, presented Mrs. LePage with a donation for the Travis Mills Foundation.

At the convention, briefings and question and answer sessions were presented by Ryan Lilly, VA Maine Medical Center director; Director of Maine Veterans services Adria Horn; senior staff from the VA Regional Office at Togus; and members of the staff of the Bangor Veterans Home.

Maine Honor Flight representatives gave a briefing on about the great work it is doing in getting WWII Veterans and other veterans to Washington to see the WWII Memorial.

On Saturday, the state DAV Auxiliary held an auction that raised almost $2,000 for supporting veterans programs. TV personality Kevin Mannix served as auctioneer.

Country Music Star Debbie Myers provided music for DAV members and guests. Myers is involved with veterans programs in Maine, especially with homeless veterans initiatives.She will host her sixth annual Homeless Veterans’ Benefit on Sunday, Sept. 20th at the Augusta Civic Center. She and her friends have raised more than $100,000 for homeless veterans over the past five years.

Special guests at the event from DAV headquarters in Washington, D.C., and Kentucky were Jim Marszalek, the DAV National Service director and Dorothy Reese, DAV Auxiliary, National, fourth junior vice commander.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin joined DAV members at the banquet on Saturday and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins served as keynote speaker for the evening. Collins and Poliquin also assisted DAV State Commander George Kanelos and DAV National Service Director Jim Marszalek in the presentation of annual awards.

Four of the award winners will compete at the national level of DAV where they will compete in each category with nominees from the 50 state organizations. The top winners nationally will be presented awards at 94th National Convention in August in Denver, Colorado. Those in national competition are Mr. Gunning, Mr. Albert, Mrs. Rush and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office.

The Special Achievement Award was presented to Daniel G. Berard Sr. of Sidney. He is a DAV member of Chapter 1 in Augusta. He served in the U.S. Navy as a corpsman. He is a previous winner of the Disabled Veteran of the Year award.

The Outstanding Veterans Health Administration Member of the Year for Maine award went to Nurse Gretchen Rush of Benedicta. Rush was nominated for this award by Ryan Lilly,hospital director at Togus. Rush is clinic manager at the Lincoln and Houlton CBOCs, which are part of the VA Maine Health Care System in Togus. Her dedication to providing outstanding care to the veterans that she serves was a primary reason for her selection for the award.

The Outstanding Veterans Benefits Administration Member of the Year for Maine was John L. Albert of West Gardiner. Gardiner was nominated by DAV National Service Officer James Laverdiere. Albert was the homeless veterans claims coordinator for the Togus Veterans Benefit Administration office.

The Maine Employer of the Year was the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Randall Liberty, of Clinton. Liberty accepted the award on behalf of his department. The award is based on numerous initiatives for veterans. His department has a high employment rate of veterans. Liberty is a veteran and a member of DAV. He and his department are known for efforts in not only hiring veterans, for helping veterans with PTSD issues, and helping incarcerated veterans become contributing and successful members of the community.

The Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year for Maine award went to George Gunning of Windsor. Gunning is a DAV member and is well known in the veterans community in Maine. He is a veteran of the U.S, Navy and has made more than 2,500 personalized Eagle canes for veterans throughout the Maine and at no cost to veterans. He was recognized recently by U.S. Sen. King on the Senate floor for his work. While accepting his award Gunning surprised another DAV member with a presentation of his 2,500th cane to Ron Brodeur of Chelsea for his work with DAV and service to his country. Brodeur is  involved with the DAV Department of Maine.

The Lifetime Achievement Award winner was Richard J. Brunelle Jr. of North Berwick. Brunelle has been dedicated to helping veterans file claims and provide any other assistance needed by veterans and their families. He has been the commander of Chapter 19 of the DAV in Sanford since 2005 and is the first junior vice commander for the DAV Department of Maine. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has been a DAV life member since 2001.

The Honorable Service Award winner was Michael C. Noyes. The citation on the plaque he received reads, “Thank you for your commitment and dedication to Maine veterans’ issues and your outstanding efforts in solving complex veterans’ compensation claims problems on behalf of Senator Susan Collins.”