Project honors fallen heroes

     Donald Skidgel has already been honored by his country. In 2009, Newport, the town he grew up in, named its Main Street bridge in his honor and now his place of birth, Caribou, will be memorializing the late war hero.

     Skidgel was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War.

     United Veterans of Maine will pay tribute to Skidgel and another Aroostook County Medal of Honor recipient, Edward C. Dahlgren of Perham, by naming a residential and vocational facility now taking shape on outer Washburn Street, the Dahlgren-Skidgel Farm of Hope. (See related story on Page One of this edition.)   

Donald Sidney Skidgel was born in Caribou but grew up in Newport. He enlisted in the Army in Bangor.

     According to his Medal of Honor citation, Sgt. Skidgel and his troops were acting as convoy security near Song Be in Vietnam on Sept. 14, 1969. Skidgel placed machine gun fire on enemy soldiers hidden in tall grass. After silencing them, he ran across 60 meters of bullet-swept ground to fire on more enemies. After running low on ammunition, he returned to his vehicle across the same terrain.

    He was alerted that the command element was receiving heavy fire. Despite the road being saturated with enemy fire, he calmly mounted his vehicle. With a driver, he drew enemy fire onto himself, allowing the command troops to withdraw without casualties.

     After an explosion from a rocket-propelled grenade, Skidgel was knocked down. He continued to place fire on the enemy, despite his pain. He was mortally wounded by small arms fire.

     “Sgt. Skidgel’s gallantry at the cost of his life [was] in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect[s] great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army,” reads the citation.

     He died just a month before his 21st birthday and is buried at Sawyer Cemetery in Plymouth.

     Edward C. Dahlgren, who died in 2006 at age 90, was born in Perham. He joined the Army from Portland in March 1943 and by February 11, 1945 was serving as a Sergeant in Company E, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division. On that day, at Oberhoffen, France, he repeatedly attacked German positions alone and captured many prisoners. He was subsequently promoted to second lieutenant and, on September 10, 1945, awarded the Medal of Honor. Dahlgren left the Army while still a second lieutenant.

     Dahlgren’s official Medal of Honor citation reads in part:

     “The bold leadership and magnificent courage displayed by Sgt. Dahlgren in his heroic attacks were in a large measure responsible for repulsing an enemy counterattack and saving an American platoon from great danger.”

     Bill Flagg, public relations director for Cary Medical Center and volunteer with the United Veterans of Maine, said he was honored to have known Dahlgren.

     “Ed was an extraordinary individual who I had the privilege to meet and work with on the Veterans Committee that did the original work on the VA clinic. His daughter wrote a book about him, ‘In the Shadow of the Mountain’ a very good book about his life,” he said.

     Editor’s note: Portions of the story were originally reported by Alex Barber, BDN Staff, in a 2009 story.