Hometown hero is term we often hear used to describe persons noteworthy of our admiration. In the tumultuous times we live in, I have come to believe that our little towns here in Maine are filled with hometown heroes. From the moms and dads who embrace, with no thought of recognition or reward, the challenges of raising a family, to the farmers and loggers carving out their gritty sustenance from the land, which does not always willingly yield its abundance to the labor their hands, and the every day neighbors dedicated to maintaining the peaceful atmosphere in their towns, here in Maine heroes are in every kitchen, every farm field, and behind every wave of a hand as neighbors pass by. Still, from time to time, someone stands out from even those whose steady existence is the bedrock of a Nation and causes these many heroes to pause, take notice and homage to the one.
Such a time has come for the heroes who reside in the little town of Atkinson. We pause for one of the greatest among us. A young man named Jay Brainard.
He grew up in this little town, playing in the fields and woods that intertwine between the Piscataquis River and Alder Stream. Like any other boy he enjoyed fishing and being outdoors but in time began to nurture a dream to fly helicopters.
Jay Brainard would fulfill that dream. He would also determine to take that skill and serve his country, eventually earning the rank of Captain. Captain Brainard knew that his passion to fly was coupled to a vow to give his utmost for his nation if necessary. That vow was called upon in the desert sands of the Middle East, far away from the peaceful green shores of the Piscataquis River, Alder Stream, and Atkinson, Maine.
So in a little town filled with hardworking heroes going about their everyday work of supporting the foundation of the fundamental life of a society, it is time for them to pause and honor one who is the greatest among them. A soldier who defended them with all he could give. Atkinson mourns the loss of its son but also is proud to have him stand above us.
I am one who lives in this little town of Atkinson. Many days on my ride to work, I drive by an honor roll that lists the greatest of our heroes from wars past. Captain Brainard has joined their esteemed company and we name the bridge that spans the Piscataquis River after him.
I am glad to have had the chance to raise my children in this town. A quiet honest town where people work from dawn til dusk. In a town full of heroes, I’m proud to live in Atkinson on the banks of the Piscataquis River where you can cross that river on the Captain Jay Brainard Gold Star Memorial Bridge.