LEWISTON — Last January, Charlie Paul put on his Marine uniform and stood along Main Street in front of Veterans Memorial Park, braving snow, ice and cold temperatures seeking donations to build a memorial for Vietnam War veterans.

The new Vietnam War memorial stone will be dedicated at 10 a.m. Thursday during a Veterans Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

After three successive Wednesdays, he had collected well over $6,500.

“There were a few days where it was pretty chilly out there,” Paul said. “Fortunately the community really embraced what I was trying to do and I only had to be out there three Wednesdays.”

Through Paul’s efforts and the generosity of the community, the granite monument honoring those who served during the Vietnam War era will be dedicated Thursday during the city’s annual Veterans Day observance beginning at 10 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street next to the Longley Bridge that spans the Androscoggin River.

Paul, who is vice chairman of the L&A Veterans Council, served in the Marines for six years and spent 25 months in Vietnam between July 1966 and October 1968 as a radio operator. He then enjoyed a long career with the Army Reserves, retiring as a command sergeant major.

He was mostly attached to the Marine base at Chu Lai, but Paul traveled throughout the country, from the demilitarized zone, Da Nang and Khe Sanh, during his 25 months in country.


“We had some good days and some bad days,” Paul said. “It was a painful time for a lot of us. I’m just grateful that I was able to come home, and more importantly, I was able to do something worthwhile for the veterans of this country.”

The most worthwhile effort might be raising funds for the Vietnam War memorial. In addition to it, Paul raised enough money to pay for a  granite park bench that also recognizes Vietnam War veterans.

“Veterans Park, as beautiful as it is, had a glaring weakness,” Paul said. “There was nothing there that actually gave credit and memorialized the Vietnam War veterans. The memorial encompasses the Vietnam era veterans. It was important to recognize their contributions.”

The collage on the monument has scenes from all branches of the military, images anyone alive during that era will recognize. Engraved at the top of the marker are the words, “For those who have served and fought for it, freedom has a taste that the protected will never know.”

Charlie Paul of Norway stands Wednesday beside the Vietnam War memorial stone in Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street in Lewiston. The former U.S. Marine raised money for the monument, as well as the bench beside it, which also recognizes those who served during that war. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

For the most part, Vietnam War veterans were not warmly received when they returned home. Paul has seen a huge shift in how Vietnam War veterans and all veterans are treated by the public.

“I remember telling a young lieutenant when he was asking me about those coming back from the first Iraq war. ‘How come you’re not upset because they’re being treated so well?’ I said I would like to think that the mothers and fathers of these boys and girls that are coming back are the exact same ones who were protesting Vietnam, and they saw what they did to the average soldier, marine, sailor, and they realize that it wasn’t the soldier, marine, sailor that was to blame. It was the policymakers. They realized, don’t take it out on the boys just doing their jobs,” Paul said.

Paul hopes the new marker, in addition to honoring Vietnam War vets, will also help youngsters and generations to come to remember the sacrifices made by Paul’s generation.

“I just want them to remember that we did our job because of love of country,” Paul said. “I don’t want them to forget us.”

Charlie Paul of Norway walks next to the Vietnam War memorial stone Wednesday in Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street in Lewiston. The former U.S. Marine raised money to have the stone built, along with a bench that also recognizes those who served during the war. The memorial stone will be dedicated Thursday in a Veterans Day ceremony at 10 a.m. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

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