Vietnam Vets ‘Welcomed Home’

8 years ago

Several hundred veterans attend

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — More than 200 veterans and a capacity crowd turned out for the recent Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home ceremony, held as part of Take Flight festivities at the Northern Maine Regional Airport Sept. 26, 2015.

The ceremony was intended, 50 years after the start of the Vietnam War, to offer a proper “welcome home” to County veterans in light of the controversy surrounding that war and soldiers’ return to American soil. As a special token, veterans received a commemorative Vietnam War service coin.

The event began with a processional of veterans and family members of deceased Vietnam veterans. Remarks were given by Jason Parent, emcee and TAMC director of advancement; Richard Engels, local attorney and Presque Isle city councilor, himself a Vietnam vet; and by Sylvia Getman, President and CEO of the Aroostook Medical Center, sponsoring organization for Take Flight.

The Loring Job Corps Color Guard posted and retired the colors, and the national anthem was sung by local vocalist Larry Jenkins. Vietnam veteran Andy Olson gave the invocation.

Proclamations and resolutions honoring Vietnam-era soldiers were presented by Phil Bosse of Sen. Susan Collins’ office, Barb Hayslett of Sen. Angus King’s staff, and Kim Rohn, representing Rep. Bruce Poliquin; Norman Fournier, Vietnam veteran and Aroostook County commissioner; and Engels, on behalf of the Presque Isle City Council.

Harry Hafford of the Maine Veterans Cemetery in Caribou then introduced Brent Boyles, who offered a keynote address on “The Valor of our Vietnam Vets.”

Adding to the poignancy of the occasion, Lloyd Woods presented an account written by Steve Shaw of Presque Isle, who detailed his experiences in the Asian country. Though protests about the war abounded, Shaw found comfort in the County.

“I came back to Aroostook County and a little neighbor girl who knew I was returning waited up in a tree in her yard for four hours to see me coming home,” he wrote. “What that little girl thought of me, meant more to me than what all of the war protesters thought.”

A firsthand account was also presented by Julie Albert, CRNA and a U.S. Air Force veteran, who read “The Donna LaPointe Story: My Brother Bobby, a Hometown Hero.” In her story, LaPointe shared memories of growing up in Ashland with her brother, Bobby Goding, who ultimately gave his life for his country in Vietnam.

Both Shaw and LaPointe were present for the ceremony.

Wreaths were laid for each branch of the U.S. military, and a 21-gun salute was given by the American Legion Riders Chapter 147. Bugler and Vietnam veteran Jerry Riley played “Taps” to conclude the welcome home event.

Earlier that morning, another ceremony recognized former Loring Air Force Base military personnel and civilian workers, with the special addition of a KC-135 aircraft flown in for the occasion.

Take Flight was spearheaded by TAMC to honor and raise funds for Crown Critical Care Transport, as well as showcase its fall health fair and flu shot clinic. A host of area businesses and organizations as well as food and merchandise vendors, television stars and children’s activities were featured at the four-hour event.

TAMC officials estimated that a crowd of more than 4,000 people attended.