The founder of Wreaths Across America plans to build the world's tallest flagpole in Washington County. Credit: Courtesy of Flagpole of Freedom Park

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The Vietnam War happened during my childhood. At that time, I did not realize what was going on or why a Vietnam veteran living in my apartment complex had committed suicide after coming home. As I grew older it all started to make sense to me and I made the choice to leave home when I was 17 years old and serve in the United States Navy. In doing so, my mother had to sign over permission for me to enlist — which she did selflessly. I knew it, even then, that I was making a sacrifice that was very important.

While serving overseas, almost immediately I felt a strong unity building among my fellow service men and women. I want more Americans to understand the sacrifice veterans make to protect our freedom. I want more Americans to see the United States flag and feel the pride I do and not disrespect it the way many do.

In 1996, I came to Maine with my husband and in 2006 I became involved with Maine’s American Legion. My job as Americanism Officer (2021-2022) was to advance patriotism and good citizenship; to inspire allegiance to the flag and to defend it in the name of liberty and justice. Maine is a veteran-rich state, one of the richest in the country, with one out  of 10 residents having served. Every one of them left their families and their personal comforts behind to protect us and our freedom. Too often we forget, which is why I’ve worked my lifetime to remind people.

The Washington County project aiming to build the world’s largest American flagpole in Columbia Falls has my full support. Flagpole of Freedom Park will honor every single man and woman who’ve served America since the Revolutionary War. It is the grandest gesture I’ve ever seen to teach how America was shaped by conflict, and how it emerged stronger and better for it each time.

This project is incredibly impressive, so much so that it may seem impossible. But, I have faith it will be completed and it will guarantee that no one ever forgets the sacrifices made for the beautiful flag of our country. It is an opportunity to pay our veterans the grand respect they deserve.  

Tricia Thurston

2nd Vice Commander

Maine American Legion