LEWISTON, Me- Multiple exhibits and a program honoring veterans representing each generation, from World War I, World War II, Vietnam, the Cold War and including the recent conflicts in the Middle East, were present and accounted for at the May 23, “Franco-Americans in International Service”, at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College (USM LAC), hosted by the Franco-American Collection.
Certainly, those who filled the USM LAC exhibit hall, and conference room, attended to learn and remember all who served. They paid special tribute to the Franco-Americans who contributed to Maine’s military and international service histories, beginning with World War I. Displays portrayed a century of service by Maine’s patriotic Franco-Americans.
University of Maine President Dr. Glenn Cummings welcomed the attendees to the evening program and gave a historic tribute to Franco-Americans. He expressed thanks to the Franco-American veterans featured in the exhibit and described the state’s dedication to supporting all who have served in the military. “Maine people have a brave and historic tradition for supporting patriotic service,” said Cummings.
Featured in the program exhibits were highlights of military memorabilia and artifacts collected by the USM LAC Franco-American Collection, a project funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). These items were obtained from the Franco-American veterans and their families, who brought in hundreds of pieces of historic data for the digitization project. The original items were returned to the owners.
Speakers in the May 23 program included first person accounts from Franco-American veterans who served.. In the World War I exhibit and program, the history of Albert Beliveau was presented by his son, Maine attorney Severin Beliveau, who is also Maine’s Honorary French Consular. Beliveau’s father was a Rumford native and one of the American military officers who served in France and established the American Legion.
Three of Maine’s distinguished Franco-American military officers presented:
- Colonel Donald Dubay, United States Army, Ret., a Lewiston-Auburn native, career army officer who served in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the US and at the Pentagon, in Washington DC, in international diplomacy and intelligence;
- Colonel Todd Desgrosseilliers, United States Marine Corps, Ret., who grew up in Auburn, a decorated veteran; and recipient of the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts, he served in the Iraq War and was twice wounded the Battle of Fallujah, Iraq; and
- Major Adam Cote, Maine Army National Guard, Ret, who is a Bronze Star recipient, a Sanford native who is a veteran with service in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq, was the program’s Master of Ceremonies.
A historic video produced by Bangor resident Kathryn Vanaria, featured excerpts from the oral histories of three Lewiston veterans:
- Joseph LePage, USN, from World War II
- Donald Robitaille, USN, from the Korean era conflict, and
- Roger Martel, USA, a Vietnam veteran.
An opening patriotic ceremony featured the salute to the flags of the United States, Canada and France, with respective anthems performed by the talented Les Troubadours. This traditional ceremony was accompanied by the anthems of the three nations, led by the Star Spangled Banner. This ceremony honored the French and French-Canadian heritage of all Americans who share in and appreciate the Franco-American history and culture. Serving in the Lewiston Veterans Franco-American Color Guard were Bert Dutil, Jerry Dewitt, Cecile Burgoyne, Maurice Fournier and Norman Bussière.
In closing, a moment of silence was led by Father Frank Morin, the pastor of the Saint Michael Parish, in Augusta, Me., including the St. Augustine Church, serving the Franco-American residents who live in the Sand Hill neighborhood.
Following the moment of silence, Les Troubadours concluded the evening by leading the singing of “God Bless America”.
More information about the “Franco-Americans in International Service” and the NEH digitization project are available by contacting the Franco-American Collection at USM LAC (phone): 207-753-6545.