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Ceremony awards, thanks veterans
Leo Paul Arsenault (left) and Robert Arsenault (right) pose with Peter Ogden, director of Maine Veterans Services, in accepting a Gold Star Honorable Service Medal on behalf of their brother, Sgt. George C. Arsenault of Rumford, killed on August 15, 1944 in France while serving in the U.S. Army. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)
Veteran Anthony W. Martin, dressed in his World War II uniform, sings the "State of Maine Song" at a veterans' recognition ceremony Friday at the Swasey Torrey American Legion Post 100 in Dixfield. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)
DIXFIELD -- Leo Paul Arsenault and Robert Arsenault were among the hundred veterans and family members gathered for a veterans' ceremony Friday afternoon at the Swasey Torrey American Legion Post 100.
They were present to accept a Gold Star Honorable Service Medal on behalf of their brother, Sgt. George C. Arsenault of Rumford, killed on August 15, 1944 in France while serving in the U.S. Army.
Peter Ogden, director of Maine Veterans Services, presented medals and certificates to veterans and their families. "Probably the best job I have is going out and shaking hands and saying, 'thank you' to our veterans."
The State of Maine has established a recognition program to honor the service and sacrifices of all Maine veterans. The recognition program includes honoring those who were wounded, POWs, or died in support of combat operations since the beginning of WW II.
Speaking to the veterans present here, Ogden said, "Your a part of 150,000 veterans living in the State of Maine today. In 2000, Maine had the highest veterans population per capita in the nation. We're still number three."
Talking about this program, which he began, Ogden noted, "Other states present medals, but no state in the United States does anything like Maine does. We have a great program. We have our three state medals; we recognize those levels, and we have our certificates of appreciation that match our plaques in the Hall of Flags."
Featured was the presentation of the Maine Gold Star Honorable Service Medal families of those that made the ultimate sacrifice during WWII, Korea and Vietnam, the Maine Silver Star Honorable Service Medals to those that were wounded in combat and awarded a Purple Heart or prisoner of war, and Maine Bronze Star Honorable Service Medals were presented to the families of those who died in the line of duty but not in a combat zone.
Also presented were Certificates of Appreciation for Wartime Service.
The Arsenault brothers accepted the first of the eight Gold Star Honorable Service Medal awarded. Leo served in the Marine Corps in WWII and Korea, while Robert served in the Navy in Korea.
Speaking about his brother, George, Leo noted, "He was 18 years old when he left with a group of kids in Rumford to fight. He was one of the first troops to enter Rome, who were there to clear the area from snipers. He will killed during the second invasion in France. We believe it was a land mine."
The Arsenault family is the epitome of a military family, who had eight brothers and a sister serving our country.
The oldest brother, who is 95, served with the Army Air Corps in World War II; Rene served with the Air Force in WWII and the Korean War; Charles served in the Army in the Korean and Vietnam wars; Eugene served in the Army after WWII as an interpreter in France; Raymond served in the Air Force; and their sister, Evangeline, served in the Nurse Corps in WWII.
Also present were Rep. Sheryl Briggs, who helped locate some of the veterans recognized, and Sen. John Patrick, who both have worked to serve veterans.
Briggs said, "As we held a similar awards ceremony this past March 30th on Maine's first Vietnam War Remembrance Day, a Gold Star Medal was to be presented to the family of Vietnam War Veteran Peter Dube. There was no one present on that day to accept the medal. As a result, Ogden carried Peter Dube's name forward onto the new list given to her for this awards ceremony.
"A local family member of Peter Dube contacted me over the summer and said that she was his niece and that there were no other family members locally. This was great, in that we could present her with the Gold Star Medal."
Briggs, who works at the Mexico Town Office, with duties including issuing certified copies of birth, marriage and death certificates, said late fall on one Friday afternoon, this woman comes into the town office and requested a copy of her marriage license for social security purposes.
"As I needed information to prepare the certificate, I asked her what were the name's on the marriage license. She said 'MaryAnn and Peter Dube.' The name immediately clicked in my head and I said to her, 'the Veteran Peter Dube, who was killed in Vietnam?'"
She replied in the affirmative.
"I then shared with her who I was and that we are trying to locate family members of veterans who were killed in action; and that we were searching for all veterans to recognize them as well for their service to our country and to award them with medals and certificates they so deserve. It was a rather emotional experience for the two of us," said Briggs.
"An experience like this just makes me push even more to help to reach out in need to our veterans and to recognize veterans in any way I can," she noted.
Briggs also recognized Mexico Town Manager John E. Madigan with a certificate for his military service she hopes to present to him soon.
After Ogdin presented the medals and certificates, veteran Anthony W. Martin, who received a Honorable Service certificate earlier, then sang the "State of Maine Song."
The state is looking for all Maine veterans, including the following: Purple Heart recipients, Prisoners of War, or the families of those who died during WW II, Korea and Vietnam wars.
The state is also looking to recognize and present each veteran with an Honorable Service Certificate for their dedicated service to our country. If a veteran has not received a certificate yet, a simple application should be completed and accompanied by their DD-214 or Discharge in order to receive the medal(s) and/or certificate.
More information on the program can be found on the Bureau of Veterans Services website at http://www.maine.gov/dvem/bvs/ and by clicking on the Maine Heroes button on the left of the page. You can also get information on the program by calling the Bureau’s central office in Augusta at 626-4464.