PARIS — Veterans of World War II and the Vietnam and Korean wars attended a ceremony Sunday afternoon that introduced a new Vietnam Memorial display case at the Maine Veterans’ Home.

The event marked the 40th anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam.

Among the home’s residents and their families and friends in attendance, more than a dozen responded when Vietnam veterans were asked to stand or raise their hands.

Joel Dutton, administrator of the Maine Veterans’ Home at 477 High St., Paris, reminded the veterans and the audience that the period of the Vietnam War was a marked by extraordinary civil unrest.

“Even today, as a country, we have confusing feelings and opinions about the Vietnam War, but what we should not be confused about is the need to honor those who served and those who died,” he said.

In his remarks about the Vietnam Memorial display case standing at the front of the room, Dutton said many homes have an old foot locker or some other place where belongings and memorabilia of Vietnam veterans may be stored.

They hold important stories, and we are looking for those stories, he said.

The new display case holds the flight suit of Richard Grover of Mason Township, a typical C-ration meal that was served to a soldier in the field, a prisoner of war/missing in action bracelet and the story of the POW behind it and some South Vietnamese currency. Dutton said he hopes people will donate more artifacts and stories to add to the home’s Vietnam Memorial exhibit.

As guests viewed the display, Dutton said he has recently received an additional contribution. Dave Olson of Oxford gave him three letters he had written and sent to his family from Vietnam, Dutton said.

Olson did not know his mother had saved the letters until after her death, when the letters were found in a locked safe. The letters are now in a three-ring binder which accompanies the display.

Other material in the binder relates to Richard Grover, who flew 100 missions in a F-105 in North Vietnam from April 1967 until November 1967; veterans Robert Poliquin, Charles Benge and Marine Sgt. Carroll P. Hebert.

In keynote remarks, State Rep. Tom Winsor, R-Norway, recognized those who had served in the military. 

“I would like to extend that gratitude to those who stayed at home,” Winsor added. “We sometimes forget the hardships endured by those families.”

Joe Cooney, chairman of the Western Maine Veterans’ Advisory Council, led members of that organization in posting the colors.

The Maine Veterans’ Home in Paris is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Dutton said. The facility has about 90 beds and its residents range from 63 to 95 years old.

Al Pelletier, a Vietnam veteran, sang a song to express his emotions during service. Its refrain emphasized that “we teenage boys were men in Vietnam.”

Vocalists for the national anthem and “God Bless America” were Sylvia Michaud Kissel and Ethel Lacourse.

The Rev. Larry Austin, resident chaplain at the home, gave the invocation and benediction.

Anyone interested in donating memorabilia or sharing stories can contact Dutton at 743-6300.


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