Restaurant owner says he’ll pay to put more vets’ names on monument

LEWISTON – Until recently, Navy veteran Normand Vallee had never seen the veterans’ memorial beside the Longley Bridge.

He knew that he, his father and brother were listed on one of the dark marble slabs. But he didn’t seek them out until a stranger from Massachusetts stopped by Vallee’s Village Inn restaurant looking for directions to the memorial.

Vallee took the man over to Veterans Memorial Park and soon found himself gazing at the 10 stones etched with names. He was first impressed. Then inspired.

“I said ‘We’ve got to get more names here.'”

And he decided to do it.

Vallee has agreed to pay to have one veteran’s name engraved on one of the memorial’s stones every week. Family members, friends or veterans can drop off names at the Village Inn on High Street in Auburn. Vallee will draw one name a week.

At $30 a name, the sponsorship will cost Vallee $1,560 a year. He doesn’t mind the price.

“It’s giving back,” said Vallee, who served in the Navy between 1951 and 1955 and now owns the Village Inn.

Dedicated in 2004, the veterans’ memorial honors anyone who has ever served in the military, including the National Guard, during peacetime or in war. Currently, 10 stones show the names of 2,160 local veterans, honoring service between the Revolutionary War and the war in Iraq.

The memorial can hold up to 24 stones. Engravers are now working on No. 11. The memorial stones are placed at the site during ceremonies held on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. They are overseen by the L & A Veterans Council.