Friday, November 18, 2022

Veterans Day observance honors Windham residents who served

By Ed Pierce

Windham has a long and proud tradition of honoring those who served in the military and on Friday, Nov. 11, once again the community gathered at the Windham Veterans Center to say thanks to local veterans for their sacrifices while in uniform.

American Legion Field-Allen Post 148
bugler Linwood Bailey plays 'Taps' during
a ceremony on Friday, Nov. 11 to commemorate
Veterans Day at the Windham Veterans Center.
During a ceremony led by VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman, local veterans were recognized for their contributions and treated to a lunch donated by area businesses.

“Veterans Day honors the duty, sacrifice and service of our veterans,” Goodman said. “We cannot ever forget what they have given our nation.”

Goodman then introduced guest speaker Kevin Demmons of East Winthrop, an inspiring Afghanistan veteran and a former U.S. Army paratrooper who uses his military background to help others as a strength and conditioning coach, a life skills coach, and a motivational speaker in the Bangor area.

“Like many combat soldiers when I came home, I brought back some baggage,” Demmons said. “You don’t just forget about that feeling when you think you are going to die, or even worse the sights and smells of your brothers dying.”

He joined the Army in January 2011 and later that year saw combat against the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Paktia province and saw many people, both soldiers, civilians and the enemy lose their lives, leading to his ongoing sense of unhappiness and depression.

“It was war, it was hard times and there are things you don’t forget,” Demmons said. “I had a lot of things to work through when I got home. I thought I couldn’t be happy. I carried that victim mentality for a long time.”

Demmons described arriving at a village in Afghanistan shortly after a suicide bomber had exploded an incendiary device that killed U.S. soldiers who had simply stopped to give out candy to Afghan children as a gesture of friendship. It was something that Demmons said that he had little time to process as he had to load dead bodies onto a truck and drive a wounded soldier for emergency treatment and then he returned home to Maine the very next day.

After struggling personally and professionally in civilian life back home and out of the Army, Demmons said he came to a profound realization with the help of a therapist.

“I decided to live in spite of the fallen,” he said. “I decided to live in honor of them. Trying to be successful for yourself gives you a sense of purpose.”

Demmons said he focused on what gave him his greatest release from reliving his wartime experiences and that was his ability to train and exercise.

“I chose a path of fitness, nutrition, work and changing my mindset to live a better life.”

That epiphany led him to healthier relationships with his wife and family and a much happier life.

The Veterans Day observance included a performance by the Windham Chamber Singers and the presentation of the flag and colors by Windham Boy Scout Troop 805.

On hand for the observance were State Senator Bill Diamond, incoming State Senator Tim Nangle, State Representatives Mark Bryant and Patrick Corey, and Windham Town Councilor David Nadeau. Former State Senator and State Representative Gary Plummer also attended the event.

Following the VFW observance, a ceremony marking Veterans Day was held in the Windham Veterans Center courtyard by American Legion Post 148 where a wreath was placed remembering all veterans from Windham who served.

Placing the wreath was American Legion Post 148 Commander Tom Theriault and VFW Commander Goodman, accompanied by Windham’s sole remaining World War II veteran Carroll McDonald as American Legion bugler Linwood Bailey played "Taps." <

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