Congressman Jared Golden speaks at annual veterans appreciation breakfast

Congressman Jared Golden told dozens of people attending the annual SMCC-USM veterans appreciation breakfast that his time in the military was the “best collective experience” of his life.

Golden was the keynote speaker at the event, which was held virtually Wednesday morning, the day before Veterans Day. SMCC and the University of Southern Maine have been holding the event together in recent years to pay tribute to veterans.

Golden, who represents Maine’s 2nd District in Congress, enlisted in the Marines following 9/11 and spent combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. After the military, he returned to Maine and used his veterans benefits to attend Bates College.

“Keep your heads up,” he told veterans at the event via Zoom from Washington, D.C. “Be proud of your service. Be proud of what you’re doing today.”

More than three dozen people attended Thursday’s event, including SMCC President Joe Cassidy and USM President Glenn Cummings, both of whom spoke of their appreciation for veterans and all they contribute to the schools.

Also speaking were Ben Henckel, a Navy veteran who attends SMCC, and Trevor Engling, a Navy veteran and one-time SMCC student who is now earning his graduate degree at USM.

Henckel said his transition from the military to SMCC was “pretty painless,” in part because of the student support that was available.

“If you need help, reach out,” he said. “Everyone wants you to succeed.”