It’s been a busy week for Maine veterans and those who support them, with events at the University of Maine at Augusta and VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus.

This year, UMA has held a number of events honoring veterans throughout the week.

And in the Pine Tree State, Thursday also marked another important occasion for those who have served. Exactly 150 years earlier, on Nov. 10, 1866, the U.S. veterans hospital near Chelsea — the first of its kind in the nation — accepted its first patient.

State and federal officials already celebrated the 150th birthday of the Togus campus during a day of festivities in September. But on Thursday, a smaller party also was held on the hospital’s actual birthday.

Pieces of commemorative artwork were dedicated at the celebration, while writers with unique connections to Togus spoke during a ceremony in the hospital’s theater.

The speakers included Allen Breed and Robin White, who are both related to Bowman Bigelow Breed, a surgeon who was in charge of Togus during its early days. Breed and White recently published a book, “My Own Dear Wife,” using letters exchanged between Bowman Bigelow Breed and his wife, Hannah. Another speaker was historian Donald Beattie, who has written several books about Togus.

Among the artwork dedicated at the Thursday ceremony was a large eagle carved out of wood by George Gunning, a Navy veteran who makes and donates eagle-headed canes to fellow veterans around Maine. Gunning’s carving of the eagle shows it clutching an American flag.

Jim Doherty, a Togus coordinator, told attendees that he asked Gunning if he could produce something ahead of the 150th-anniversary celebration, but he did not expect such a large creation. It will be displayed in the Togus main lobby.

“This thing is huge,” Doherty said. “It’s beautiful. I was expecting a cane, and I got this. It’s just incredible.”

Gunning was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Donna Gunning, and military veteran Burt Truman, who have helped him produce more than 3,000 canes. After Doherty introduced them, Truman said, “When you see that eagle coming down over that flag, it looks like it’s saying, ‘Don’t blank with my flag.'”

Elsewhere in Kennebec County, the University of Maine at Augusta has been honoring veterans, who are well represented in the system.

The school has a large nontraditional student population, including several hundred veterans, so the week has been meaningful, said Amy Line, the coordinator of military and veterans affairs at the school.

“It’s all about the relationships, and we really like to do something every day of the week because we have people coming in and out so much,” Line said before a flag-folding ceremony and dessert social at UMA’a Randall Student Center.

Throughout the week, students have been writing notes of thanks to veterans for their service, which have been distributed on campus and through the mail. Last Sunday, there was a concert honoring veterans by Don Campbell; and Wednesday, comedian and public speaker Gary Crocker performed on campus for about 40 minutes.

Line, a 20-year Navy veteran and a UMA faculty member, said having veterans in classes provides invaluable experiences to students and faculty members.

“We are all reading the text and learning the theories, but (the veterans) bring in the practice behaviors and the soft skills,” Line said. “Their experiences are so rich that they enhance anything an author could write in a book.”

Staff writer Jason Pafundi contributed to this report.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

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Twitter: @ceichacker