Monday, September 28, 2015

Windham's Don Rogers is 90 - by Walter Lunt

Windham resident and community icon Don Rogers maintained his familiar congenial smile for over two hours last Sunday as a capacity crowd joined him and his family to offer congratulations and birthday wishes during an open-invitation celebration held at the Windham Veterans Center.
Rogers, who turned 90 years young on September 21, shook hands and traded stories and jibes throughout the occasion. 

“I didn’t know I knew so many people,” he later commented.

Don was formally introduced by Norma, his wife of 61 years, and by sons Scott and Dale. A roast soon began when Dale, who works for Grondin Construction, quipped that he had just been to the quarry digging dirt that was as old as his father. And, “I can’t believe you lived this long having me as your kid.”

Fellow parishioner and friend Ron Wain said he checked Genesis in the Holy Bible to be sure “the first man was named Adam, not Don.”

One speaker said he researched the major events that happened during Roger’s birth year, 1925, but found that “nothing happened.” He attended one room schoolhouses, including Windham’s old Town House (now headquarters for the Windham Historical Society). He joined the Army Air Corp during his senior year of high school and served through the end of World War II, completing high school in the service. Following the military, Rogers worked in his father’s excavation business, M.L. Rogers Inc., until the 1980s. He is a member of American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 in Windham, the Windham Alumni Association and the Masons.

Many recognize Rogers for his prominent spot in the annual Windham Memorial Day parade, riding in a vintage Mustang open convertible. Gary Plummer noted that Rogers has been “part of the framework of this town for my entire life, and it’s an honor to be his “chauffeur” during the parade. Plummer recalled that one year Rogers asked him, “When you’re done with this car, can I have it?”
Applause broke out several times during the get-together in reference to Roger’s military service. 
Representative Patrick Corey observed that Rogers “still fits into his military uniform from more than 60 years ago.” Senator Bill Diamond thanked Rogers for his service to country and the town, adding “It is a privilege to be your friend.”

Rep. Mark Bryant, speaking for the legislative delegation, presented Rogers with a formal legislative sentiment (see insert).

There were also serious and sentimental moments. Nieces Bonnie Gouzie and Dorothy Petrie shared special experiences they had with their uncle. Gouzie says she’ll never forget the snowy night when, as a young girl, Uncle Don invited her along while he plowed town roads. She said they rode in the big rig through the blizzard talking and telling jokes. And regarding his influence in her life proclaimed, “From the bottom of my heart, thank you for making me feel so special. You are my anchor.”
Petrie echoed a similar relationship with her uncle, saying “He is one of the hardest working guys I know – you love me for who I am and I love you very much.”

Following the greetings of over 100 well-wishers, the solemn stories and good-natured roasts, and the official sentiment from the Maine Legislature, Rogers was asked to comment. He paused and said, “Well, I’m not talkin’ today. Can’t think of a thing (to say). Thanks.”

New look for Windham Police - By Michelle Libby

Police officers in Windham are finding some relief from their 25 pound duty belts though the new cross over carrier vests that provide space for all of their gear and their bullet resistant vest plates.
A lot of officers were having back problems, said Officer Matt Cyr. There was discussion about the heavy belts officers were wearing over their 10 to 12 hour shifts, which included getting in and out of their cruisers multiple times. 

There is a national trend moving toward this more ergonomic way to carry necessary gear. Traditional officers wear a bullet proof vest under their dress shirts, this new look puts the vest and the gear on the chest and back of an officer. If they want to take the vest off while writing reports in the station, they can do that easier with the new vests. It’s a way for them to cool down on hot days as well.
When former Chief Rick Lewsen started as a police officer, he carried a gun, handcuffs and a radio, said Cyr. Now, gear consists of a flashlight or two, gun, Taser, portable radio, two sets of handcuffs, rubber gloves, pepper spray, asp (an expandable baton), flashlight, two magazines, portable radio, tourniquet, Leatherman, audio recorder for video recorder in the cars, and K-9 officers carry an automatic door opener. Imagine fitting all of that on an officer with a small waist, Cyr said. All except the firearm and the maybe the radio moved on to the vest. 

“This is an extreme effort to make the job healthier for police. (Officers) are still approachable and have a friendly a look as possible,” said Cyr. “We carry all these items to have these options to keep from seriously hurting someone.”

There are a few different models of the cross over external vests. One has a zipper down the front another skips the zipper and uses Velcro. They have many pockets and straps for hooking gear onto.
“It was amazing the difference,” said Cyr about transitioning to the vest. The hardest part for Cyr was remembering where his flashlight was. After 20 years of muscle memory, he had to retrain himself, he said. “It takes all that weight off the back and waist and uses different muscle groups. It’s a lot more comfortable.”  

“I like them and what the purpose is,” said Windham’s Police Chief Kevin Schofield. “We’re not trying to say that we’re becoming a militaristic organization.” 

The Federal Government did a study and asked for solutions to the issue of carrying the duty belt on the hips which pulls on officers’ backs. It was found that “External vests may be better for an officers’ health and their backs,” said Cyr. 

Windham’s human resources director Phyllis Moss looked at the health of the officers. Part of her job is to keep the worker’s comprehensive plan claims to a minimum. She applied for a Maine Municipal Association grant to cover the costs of the vests. It was approved and now, each year, the department receives a few more vests for officers who need them. The vests are replaced every five years. 

“My back doesn’t hurt anymore. They are also awesome in the car. There’s a lot more room and we’re not ripping the car seat,” said officer Tricia Buck, who was the first to get an external vest last fall. 

The vests are optional at this time, but Cyr anticipates that most officers will be wearing them in the near future. “The majority do want these external vests.”

Sgt. Bill Andrew received his external vest in July. “As far as the admin aspect, it’s easier to back up an officer. I just zipped it and went,” he said. 

Nine officers have the external vests now and five more will get them through the next grant.
“The biggest message is that the health piece is the biggest reason for having them. It’s a different look, but we’re carrying all the same equipment, just in a different way,” said Cyr. 

When Windham’s school resource officer Jeff Smith first starting wearing his external vest, he sent an email out to the entire high school staff to explain why his uniform was different. “The staff was not concerned. When we explain why we are wearing them it’s different,” said Cyr.   

The community was also asked on the department’s Facebook page a year and a half ago about transitioning to an external carrier and the support was overwhelming, said Cyr. 

“We expect that some will be intimidated by this. We will ask them how they feel about it and explain why (we have them). People got used to police wearing tools around their belt because it was the only option they had, it was accepted. 

“Society is expecting the street cop to do more over the years – and rightfully so. They want us to go in immediately with what we have to stop a person from hurting someone,” Cyr said. 

The vests make it so the officers will have what they need to do their job and keep them healthy enough to do their job to the best of their abilities.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Local architect battles 50 miles in support of MS - By Michelle Libby

Local business woman Emily Mottram is a little tired and understandably so after walking 50 miles to raise money at the 14th annual Challenge Walk for Multiple Sclerosis this past weekend on Cape Cod. The event raised $762,412 so far and donations are still rolling in. 
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects over 2.3 million people worldwide. It is a disease that effects the fatty substance that covers and insulates the nerves, the myelin. The damage forms scar tissue (sclerosis). “When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord are distorted or interrupted, producing a wide variety of symptoms,” according to the National MS Society. The progression is usually slow and symptoms are often misdiagnosed or passed off as inconveniences, said Mottram. “The symptoms of MS are different, and for some devastating, for everyone - the only certainty is that it will affect yet another person every hour of every day.”

Mottram became involved in the event three years ago after her best friend from college, Steve O’Brien, was diagnosed with MS. He had blurry vision and went to the eye doctor thinking he needed glasses. What came next was a diagnosis of MS. At 33 years old, he walks the 50 miles with the team that bears his name – Steve Battles the Demyelination Robots. The minimum amount an individual can raise before walking is $1,500. The five member team raised over $10,000. 

The money raised goes toward research, the majority of which is done in Boston, and for people and families by helping to purchase wheelchairs, for doctors’ appointments and in-home care, Mottram said. 

The walking event began on the green in Hyannis, Mass. Following a railroad trail that is now a bike path, the teams walk 20 miles on Friday, 20 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Sunday. The final half mile takes place back at the green in Hyannis and those with MS and the walkers all join together to finish at the same time. The event had 400 or more walkers and 200 volunteers.

Mottram did an 18-week training schedule, but said that the best work she did to prepare were squats and lifting weights. “I had less pain and soreness,” she said. “Marathon runners often say the weight training is more important than running five miles a day. Nothing you do makes miles 37 to 41 any easier. The last miles on Saturday after lunch are excruciating.” 

There were sponsored stops along the way about every two or three miles with first aid, snacks, drinks and porta-potties. 

Mottram and the team finished 20 miles including lunch in seven and a half hours. In the evenings there were speakers, dinner and activities. “After you walk 20 miles you’re brain dead,” she said. Focusing on the speakers was hard work. 

“It’s a lot of walking, but when you are out on the course, with all the other supporters of a cause that you feel so dedicated to, it’s a beautiful three days.  Even when your body hurts and you can't keep your eyes open for another moment, it's a happy smile that crosses your face,” Mottram said.

“People in wheelchairs thank you for walking. This is [Steve’s] reality in the future if they don’t come up with anything to help,” she said. She will continue to walk to help in the fight.

Vietnam 50th anniversary - Windham memorial monument to honor 52 from Cumberland County killed in action - By Walter Lunt

  "In memory of all Vietnam war brothers and sisters that have gone before us."


"Sadly you have gone away
But we remember every day
The sacrifice that each one gave
Those so willing and so brave
The stars and stripes shall never part
We keep you close within our hearts"

Vietnam Veteran Rod Voisine spoke with commitment and resolve about plans for a memorial stone dedicated to fallen servicemen of Cumberland County. Voisine, a retired US Marine, is chair of the 5-member Vietnam War 50th Committee, whose goal is to bring a memorial stone to the Windham Veterans Center Memorial Garden. The granite stone will measure 30 inches high by 36 inches wide with a 6-inch depth and will bear a stirring inscription (see box quote) and the official seals of soldiers missing in action, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and the Vietnam Commemoration (service – valor – sacrifice). Also part of the monument will be 52 pavers identifying the fallen from 12 communities in Cumberland County, including Standish, Sebago and Gray. None were killed in action from Windham, Raymond or Gorham. 

Voisine, who served near Da Nang in 1969-70 and later aboard the USS Anchorage during the Saigon evacuation in 1975, said about half of the $4,500 cost of the project has been raised through donations, and a dinner and raffle. 

The committee hopes to attract interest from county residents for either donations or participation in fundraising, especially the families of those who were lost in battle. The committee, members of American Legion Field-Allen Post 148, hope to install the commemorative stone and pavers by Veterans Day when a special ceremony is planned. Part of the motivation for the project, said Voisine, is the need to affirm a sentiment toward the returning Vietnam Veteran and those KIA that states, “Welcome back home. They never got that,” he said.

The memorial stone project is part of a three year commemorative period to remember, thank and honor Vietnam War Veterans and their families, including the fallen, wounded and prisoners of war. The Windham post will host ceremonial events through 2017. One of the first occurred this past Memorial Day with a parade and open house at the Windham Veterans Center that featured a visit by Gov. Paul LePage.

There is a significant number of Vietnam-era Veterans in the Windham-Raymond area, according to the Field Allen Post, and the post extends an invitation to hear from them as it compiles a list of local vets to receive recognition, information about the 50th anniversary activities, and to offer an opportunity to participate in upcoming commemorative events.

For more information on the Windham memorial stone or the three year 50th anniversary commemoration, contact Rod Voisine at 207-400-6671 or email; or call Chuck Whynot at 207-892-4720 or email .  Donations are accepted at:
American Legion Post 148
P.O. Box 1776
Windham, ME  04062