Madawaska American Legion raises awareness of homeless veterans

8 months ago

MADAWASKA, Maine – The Madawaska Middle/High School Band and American Legion Post #147 paid a special visit to the veterans at Country Village Estates on Thursday morning, honoring their service and sacrifice with music and heartfelt speeches while raising awareness of veteran homelessness. 

Six veterans living at the facility sat in the front row during the event. The group included veterans from wars in Vietnam and Korea. The senior member of the group, 104-year-old Armand Martin, fought in World War II. 

Edward J. Ellis, who serves as the American Legion Department of Maine 17th District Commander and Madawaska Legion Post 147 Chaplain, thanked the veterans sitting up front for their service during his speech after the concert. Ellis said they saved him so he could fight and help save the younger generation.

He said it is up to the younger generation to continue the work of past generations, and to help get veterans off the streets. 

MADAWASKA, Maine — November 9, 2023 — The Madawaska Middle/High School Band performs an assortment of military music during a Thursday morning event honoring veterans residing at Country Village Estates in Madawaska. (Chris Bouchard | St. John Valley Times)

Louis Dugal, Administrator and Owner of Country Village Estates, said the facility has held events honoring veterans for decades. Dugal also runs the High View Rehab and Nursing Center in Madawaska as well as Crest View Manor Estates. These businesses were started by his father, George Dugal, who is an Army veteran. 

And while the facility has hosted events honoring local veterans for decades, this event also highlighted the #HONORUSVETS campaign, which was started by U.S. Vets, a nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans with housing, career development, and counseling. The campaign involves raising funds and awareness for veterans experiencing homelessness.

Paula Gendreau, Country Village Estates Activity Director, said they felt that it was worth raising awareness for this cause. 

“It’s to help spread awareness to what our veterans go through sometimes when they come home from a conflict,” she said, “the homeless and mental health issues.”

She said the campaign involves wearing camouflage, which is designed to conceal and protect soldiers in combat. 

Ellis said he knows of veterans who are living on mountains, in swamps, and under bridges. He said some prefer to live off the grid.

MADAWASKA, Maine — November 9, 2023 — Edward J. Ellis, who serves as the American Legion Department of Maine 17th District Commander and Madawaska Legion Post 147 Chaplain, delivered a heartfelt speech to veterans at Country Village Estates on Thursday morning. (Chris Bouchard | St. John Valley Times)

“They don’t want anything to do with society at all,” he said.

At 74, Ellis continues to fight for veterans, from spending time with them in nursing homes throughout the region, to assisting them with paperwork for pensions and medical help. He said he helped 22 veterans last year. He said it was particularly rewarding because, as a veteran himself, he can empathize with the problems other veterans face. 

“To me it was [rewarding] because I’ve been there and done that,” he said. I’ve seen what they go through. I could be here, but if my post-traumatic stress got too bad, I could be out there.”

Dugal said it is important to continue holding events that honor local veterans for their service.

“We can never forget our history,” he said. “And we don’t ever want to repeat it. So we’ve got to honor those that have given the ultimate sacrifice, or were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice.”