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  • Maine becomes first state to officially recognize “Veterans in the Arts” day


    Maine becomes first state to officially recognize “Veterans in the Arts” day

    Law designating Nov. 1 as Veterans in the Arts and Humanities Day goes into effect July 29

     Maine will become the first state to recognize Nov. 1 as Veterans in the Arts and the Humanities Day when a new law designating the holiday goes into effect on Fri., July 29.

    “The United States is experiencing an epidemic of suicides among service men and women. It’s two to three times the rate of the general population,” said Rep. Bob Duchesne, D-Hudson, who sponsored and championed the measure. “Veterans’ groups are particularly recognizing art for its therapeutic value.”

    Duchesne’s bill came amidst a national movement to recognize veterans in the arts annually on Nov. 1. Several major cities have recognized Veterans in the Arts and Humanities Day, including Los Angeles.

    Jay Emerson of Hudson, who founded the American Veterans Arts and Crafts Gallery, asked Duchesne to sponsor the measure.

    “This does not involve days off or fireworks. What it does do in a quiet way is salute the men and women who have given a blank check to the United States, up to and including their lives, to defend and preserve this nation,” said Emerson, a Vietnam veteran. “I believe it is a very important step in the right direction to help veterans return to their rightful place in a free society.”

    In addition to running a website that allows veterans to sell their art and crafts online, the American Veterans Arts and Crafts Gallery organizes art shows to display veterans’ art, including one at the Maine State House this past fall.

    “They’re doing all the work themselves. All they’re asking for is some helpful recognition so they can grow their ability to help other vets,” Duchesne said of Emerson’s Maine-based organization.

    At nearly 10 percent, Maine’s percentage of military veterans within the state’s population is one of the highest in the country.

    According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA medical facilities across the country incorporate creative arts into their recreation therapy programs, recognizing the role the humanities can play in recovery from service-related challenges. The department also partners with the American Legion Auxiliary to organize the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, a celebration and art show for veterans treated in the VA national health care system.

    Both the House and the Senate voted unanimously to enact Duchesne’s measure. The text of the new law is available here.

    Duchesne is serving his fifth term in the Maine House, having previously served from 2005 to 2012. He is House chair of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee and a member of both the Government Oversight Committee and the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. He represents Alton, Argyle, Corinth, Hudson and Milford.