Sen. Susan Collins will address members on Saturday.

LEWISTON – About 50 Maine men, all former soldiers who were wounded in battle, plan to gather Saturday.

They’ll talk about patriotism, the wars they fought and the sacrifices they’ve made.

“They give about everything there is,” said Bertrand Lafrance, the Maine commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The medal is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who are wounded or killed by a weapon in the hands of the enemy.

It’s a fine distinction, said Lafrance, a medal recipient for his World War II injury. If soldiers are hurt in some other way, from sicknesses or accidents, they are ineligible for the honor.

Lafrance was part of Gen. George Patton’s Third Army when he was shot by a German machine gunner.

“There was too many of them,” Lafrance said.

Saturday’s event, held on Armed Services Day, is the statewide group’s annual meeting. Members will have lunch and listen to speeches from leaders. Among them will be Gen. Joseph Tinkham, commander of the Maine Army National Guard, and Sen. Susan Collins. The Maine Republican, whose father earned a purple heart during World War II, is a member of the order’s Ladies Auxilliary.

Also scheduled to attend will be Maj. Gen. Earl Adams, Tinkham’s predecessor, and Timothy Politis, the chief executive officer of the Maine Veterans Homes.

All will pay homage to the veterans who earned the award, both living and dead. As many as 92 percent of all purple hearts are awarded posthumously. The ones who survived are the lucky ones, Lafrance said.

Now, those numbers are dwindling, too, as the World War II generation ages and dies. The Order has about 400 members in Maine.

Chapters are located in Bangor, Presque Isle, Scarborough, Winslow and Paris. The latter chapter was named after Thomas Field, a Lisbon man who was killed in Somalia.


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