Recently, it was with gratitude that I saw a thoughtful exhibition in the lobby of Portland’s Clarion Hotel, where free note cards were offered to those guests who wanted to send a thank you to a Veteran. Of course, I picked up a note to send to my husband, Richard L’Heureux, USN-Retired.
America pays tribute to our veterans during Military Appreciation Month and on Memorial Day. Of course, in Maine, this tribute includes thousands of Franco-Americans who served and who are among those whose graves are decorated during Memorial Day ceremonies.
During many personal opportunities, when I’ve spoken with Maine’s Franco-Americans, I’ve also been able to locate places where Veterans memorials are located. In these special places, it’s unmistakable to read many familiar French names listed among those who served in the military. Perhaps, the most moving place to visit is the Saint Ignatius Cemetery in Sanford, where Memorial Day flags placed on Veterans graves create a visual sea of Red, White and Blue.
In Biddeford, a Veterans World War II plaque is visible on the Route 1 side of the bricked wall of the former Pepperell Mill. Many French families names are inscribed on this memorial. It’s easy to find the plaque, because a sidewalk is available for people who might want to walk to its location.
An impressive tribute to Maine and Androscoggin County’s Veterans is found in the Lewiston Veterans Memorial Park. This scenic memorial, located on the banks of Great Falls, is a tribute to Androcoggin County’s Veterans who served in all wars and many military campaigns,.Granite memorials are dedicated to all branches of the military services and lists the names of those who have served in past wars. Moreover, one memorial even acknowledges the sacrifices made by any who might be called to serve in future conflicts and wars. A special garden is dedicated to Gold Star Mothers, who lost their children in the wars.
A brochure describes the beautiful Veterans Park at this link.
During the past year, I have been asked to speak at several Veterans programs where my presentation includes the sacrifices of Franco-American Veterans. In each program, it is my privilege to remember the Veterans in my family. My Father-in-law William L’Heureux, was a World War I veteran.
My husband Richard J. L’Heureux is a Veteran of Vietnam. He served with the Seabees MCB71 in Chu Lai, Vietnam and also on the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid (now a museum), when the ship was in the Gulf of Tonkin.
During the fall of Saigon, in the spring and summer of 1975, my family was living in Subic Bay, the Republic of the Philippines, where I volunteered to participate with the international relief efforts to help thousands of Vietnam refugees. (The Fall of Saigon, was the capture of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by the People’s Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam on 30 April 1975.)
During Memorial Day ceremonies, Americans rightfully pay our respects to all Veterans. Yet, for the Vietnam Veterans, in particular, the tribute must include, “Welcome Home!”, because many were ignored or even scorned, rather than recognized, for their military war service.
Our National Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC, is a lasting tribute to Vietnam War Veterans sacrifices, unrecognized at the time when they served. Included in the Vietnam Memorial is also a Women’s Monument, to honor the humanitarian care provided by military nurses. A special granite memorial to honor the Vietnam Veterans is among those included in Lewiston’s Veterans Park.
It came to my attention, during one of the programs where I spoke, that there are only a few World War I Memorials, when compared to the numbers of monuments on display to recognize veterans of World War II and the American Civil War. Therefore, in the future, I’ll try to capture as many World War I Memorials as I can, during the travels I enjoy, while interviewing Maine’s Franco-Americans.
Maine’s cemeteries dedicated to veterans are located at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta and in Springvale, Maine.
Thank you to all veterans! Merci beaucoup.