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Maine town considers criteria for veterans' monument

WOODSTOCK, Maine — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday heard arguments about whose names should be inscribed on the town's new veterans' monument in front of Whitman Memorial Library.

In 2012, residents voted to raise $6,000 to help fund a new monument. Town Manager Vern Maxfield said the current one is filled with names and another is needed to list veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those who have recently been identified.

Selectman Ron Deegan, who served in the military during the end of the Vietnam War, said he has “lost sleep over this for many nights.” He said he and Maxfield worked on the wording for the new monument to make sure everyone who deserves to be on it will be recognized.

“I had two goals in my mind,” Deegan said. “I want to figure out how we can ensure that we support what the true definition of a veteran is with this monument, and I want to see if we can honor those who don't have a DD-214 or a discharge form and don't have the true definition of a veteran.”

A DD-214 is a report on the release or discharge when a service member performs active duty or at least 90 consecutive days of active duty training.

“Our current monument says, 'Roll of Honor, Wartime Veterans,'” Deegan said. “I'm proposing that we change the title (for the new monument) from 'Wartime Veterans' to 'Served in times of war and conflict.'”

Deegan said the reasoning is that the government never officially declared war against Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, and that Operation Desert Storm was not an official war.

“Does that mean that those veterans aren't going to be recognized, because it wasn't a war?” Deegan asked. “It makes me think that we should retitle the (new) monument to make sure everyone is recognized.”

Chairman Victor Young and Selectman Stephen Bies agreed with Deegan's idea.

However, Deegan's suggestion to create a third monument for people who didn't fit the official definition of a veteran was met with apprehension from resident Tom Hartford, who felt Deegan was “trying to dilute the definition of a veteran.”

Deegan said he understood there are people who served in the military who don't fit the official definition of veteran but still took the same oath to protect and defend the county against foreign and domestic enemies.

Hartford said there are 37 positions in the military that Congress recognizes as veterans.

“If you were going to put everyone that didn't serve in wartime or conflict, you'd be filling up the monument with every little thing,” Hartford said. “They're not veterans, and they shouldn't be with the veterans' monument.”

“I'm not saying they're veterans,” Deegan said. “I'm just trying to do something for the people who didn't receive a discharge and aren't recognized as a veteran, according to Congress' definition.”

Deegan said his proposed monument would contain the title “Honor Roll” at the top and would have the phrase, “We served our country in these ways” engraved underneath.

Hartford said he wouldn't want it to be placed with the veterans' monument.

“When you look at the veterans' monument that we have in town, and the flag holder, and the bench in that area, they say 'In Honor of Our Veterans,'” Hartford said. “If you put that other monument with all of the other ones, people are going to get confused and think they're veterans.”

Deegan said he would be OK with putting the new monument on a different piece of land so people wouldn't be confused.

Maxfield said a final decision on the monument will be made after selectmen, Hartford and members of the Daughters of Veterans of the Civil War group confer.

©2014 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)

Visit the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine) at www.sunjournal.com

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