The entrance to the Maine Veterans Home in Caribou. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / Aroostook Republican

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How ironic that around the same time that the Washington County flag project was announced, the news came that the veterans’ homes in Aroostook and Washington Counties were going to close due to lack of funding and staffing challenges. As a family member of a current resident in the Caribou veterans’ home, to say I was stunned is putting it mildly. How could anyone be considering wasting a billion dollars on a glorified tourist attraction honoring dead veterans, while for lack of money, living veterans were being forced to relocate miles away from family and friends? And with little warning!

As the recent article articulated, there are many, many locations and activities that already honor our dead veterans. What the living veterans need are places to live where they will be near family and friends, while at the same time getting the dedicated care they need and deserve. The next closest veterans’ home for our County veterans is in  Bangor; beyond that, in Augusta. And it appeared on such short notice, the only option open would be Augusta, at least a four to five hour drive from Caribou.

No more popping in for a visit whenever someone wants, no more monitoring doctor or dentist visits for someone with dementia who can’t speak for themselves. It felt like basically taking a child many miles away from home, dropping them off with strangers and driving away. Any future visits would be few and far between. How to explain? Just think about what that billion dollars could do!

Noreen McIntosh