As a healthcare executive in Maine, Gerald "Jerry" Cayer has been a leader and advocate for healthcare in our state.
He’s currently the executive vice president for Franklin Community Health Network in Farmington which includes oversight of Franklin Memorial Hospital, a progressive community hospital known for its innovation and commitment to community health. Prior to this position, he served as director of the Department of Health and Human Services for the city of Portland, where he was responsible for all health, medical and social service programs sponsored by the city.
What many colleagues don’t realize is that the Lewiston native served in the United States Marine Corps for three years from ages 18 to 21.
“I earned the rank of Corporal, E-4 where I worked in legal services or JAG, Judge Advocate General. I prepared legal documents for the chief trial lawyer, transcribed court proceedings and reviewed general and superior court martial briefs during the appellate process,” said Cayer. “Of course, there was also extensive training in traditional infantry skills -- rifles, grenades, machine guns, fox holes, and midnight walks.”
Cayer entered the service to fulfill a family tradition as well as for the opportunities it would open for his future.
“There’s a history of service in my family of meeting the physical and mental challenge of going into such an organization as the Marine Corps,” said Cayer, who came from a family where money was tight and no one was able to attend a college or university. “The Marine Corps provided assistance in my success at earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine at Farmington and a masters degree from Boston University.”
Cayer’s service took him to places such as Parris Island in South Carolina, Camp Pendleton in California, Cherry Point in North Carolina, and to the nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C.
“Parris Island was special -- Marine Corps boot camp was an incredible experience,” said Cayer, leaving a bit to the imagination about the definition of incredible. “It was probably the most challenging, single activity I have ever participated in despite the loud voices of the drill instructors.”
Cayer reflects that living and working in California and North Carolina were memorable. “They were two distinct parts of America that were culturally polar opposites,” explained Cayer. “This was special for a kid from Maine whose travel history was very limited.
“Being assigned to Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington was special. It was the first time in my life that I traveled to Washington and I had the opportunity to work and live in one of the world's most historical and significant cities,” said Cayer. “It was during my time there that President Ronald Reagan was shot just blocks away from where I was working.”
Veterans Day brings pride for Cayer as he reflects back on his service.
“The sense of well being and accomplishment in successfully pushing oneself for the greater good was powerful,” said Cayer. “To be successful and earn the title, United States Marine, meant that sacrifice through discipline had been achieved. It was an honor and privilege to be a Marine.”