Showing posts with label VFW. Show all posts
Showing posts with label VFW. Show all posts

Friday, June 21, 2024

Community mourns loss of beloved Korean War veteran Walter Braley Jr.

By Ed Pierce

One of the humblest military heroes you’ll ever meet and a genuine friend to everyone who knew him has died at the age of 92.

U.S. Marine Corps and Korean War veteran Walter
Braley Jr. waves to parade vehicles driving by his
home in the Cornerbrook subdivision in Windham
on his 90th birthday on Oct. 10, 2021. Braley
died on Father's Day, June 16, at the age of 92.
Korean War veteran Walter Braley Jr. of Windham passed away peacefully at his home in the Cornerbrook subdivision on Father’s Day, June 16.

Born in Somesville, a village on Mount Desert Island in Maine, as the only child of Walter Sr. and Eva Braley, his family moved to Scarborough when he was 10 so that his parents could work in a shipyard there. He attended schools in Scarborough until he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1947 at the age of 17. Braley completed basic training at Camp Lejune in North Carolina and then was sworn in for active military duty by the late Maine U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith.

He rose to the rank of Sergeant in the Marines and was stationed at bases in Cuba and California and then was sent to South Korea during the Korean War. While in Korea, one of his duties was to patrol the DMZ, the no man’s land separating South Korea from its hostile North Korea neighbor.

“I walked across the DMZ before Donald Trump ever did a few years ago when he did so with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,” Braley said. “I did it first.”

While stationed at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, Braley was asked to transport up a fellow Marine to the base, and it turned out to be future county music superstar George Jones, who was just about to launch his recording career.

Braley said they became good friends, and he would accompany Jones when he would go out with his friends on weekend leave and perform songs in exchange for drinks.

Years later when Jones was in Maine to perform a concert, he introduced the audience to Braley and asked him where he had been since he last saw him in the 1950s.

“Right here,” Braley is said to have told him.

Because of an injury he sustained in Korea, Braley was discharged from the Marines at the rank of Sergeant and returned home to Maine. He found work with the Delaware Feed Grain Store, as a truck driver for Maine Egg, a dog groomer for Dutton Animal Hospital in Saco and then at the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook, a position from which he retired after 35 years of service. Braley was a longtime pet owner and served as a Maine State Humane Agent and an advocate for suffering animals.

Following his retirement, Braley spent time volunteering for the Bruce Roberts Fund and Meals on Wheels. As a veteran, he became active in Windham Post 10643 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 in Windham.

He was a member of the First Baptist Church in Westbrook, holding various board positions and serving on other church committees.

On his 90th birthday in October 2021, a parade was held outside his home to commemorate his birthday and at that event Braley was presented with a Quilt of Honor by Cindy Beaulieu of the Quilts of Honor group.

“First we honor you for your service,” Beaulieu told Braley. “Second, freedom is not free, and we thank you for your service. We hope this quilt brings comfort to you as you are forever in our thoughts and in our hearts.”

Braley said receiving the quilt and having a parade in his honor was one of the most moving experiences of his lifetime.

““I just want to say thanks to everyone for coming out here today and recognizing me in this way,” Braley said. “You’ve made me feel appreciated and you can’t ask for more than that in this life. I’m deeply grateful and to all my fellow Marines, I say Semper Fi.”

Known affectionately to his family as “Junie,” Braley loved to hunt, fish, and spend time with his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren at their camp on Thomas Pond.

Surviving Braley are his wife Nina, four daughters, one son, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 22 at the First Baptist Church of Westbrook, 733 Main St. in Westbrook. A graveside ceremony with full military honors will be conducted for Braley at the South Gorham Cemetery on Burnham Road in Gorham. <

Friday, March 15, 2024

Windham Christian Academy student wins Maine 'Voice of Democracy' contest

By Ed Pierce

For the second consecutive year, a student from Windham Christian Academy has captured the state “Voice of Democracy” contest sponsored by the VFW and qualified to compete in the national “Voice of Democracy” finals in Washington, D.C. This year’s winner is Anna Seavey, 18, a WCA senior, and for her winning audio essay, she earned a $2,000 scholarship for college from the national competition.

Anna Seavey of Windham Christian Academy, center, receives
a $2,000 college scholarship during the national 2024 VFW
'Voice of Democracy' contest in Washington, D.C. She was
presented the award by the VFW National Commander Duane
Sarmiento, right, and VFW Auxiliary President Carla
Martinez on March 6. COURTESY PHOTO 
Seavey plans to use the scholarship to attend Southern Maine Community College this fall and plans to study early childhood education. She hopes to eventually teach at a daycare or preschool after college.

She said she was inspired to enter the local Voice of Democracy contest sponsored by VFW Post 10643 last fall after knowing several previous students at Windham Christian Academy who have won the contest in the past few years, including Hunter Edson of Windham, who won both the local and state contests last year.

“I was excited by the possible opportunities this contest offered including scholarships, a trip to Washington D.C., and meeting people involved with the VFW,” Seavey said.

Her 3- to 5-minute audio essay was based upon this year’s theme “What Are the Greatest Attributes of Our Democracy” and she said when she first heard about the topic, she was very excited to write about it.

The annual Voice of Democracy competition was established by the VFW in 1947 and encourages students to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society and provides students with a unique opportunity to express their own thoughts about democracy and patriotism with a chance to win college scholarship money. The national first-place scholarship prize is $35,000 and each year more than 25,000 students from across America submit audio essays for the competition.

According to Seavey, she was amazed when she learned that she had won the Maine Voice of Democracy.

“At first, I couldn't even believe that they read my name,” she said. “I was immediately filled with joy and excitement when I realized I would be going forward to the national level. I felt incredibly honored that I would get the opportunity to represent my state.”

The daughter of Michael and Maureen Seavey of Standish, Anna is the youngest of four children and says her family was excited to find out about her winning the state-level competition, the accompanying college scholarship and the all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete against other state winners.

“They were all incredibly supportive and encouraging to me as I prepared to go to Washington D.C. My parents were able to watch the parade of winners live, and my siblings watched from home on television. I am so thankful for the support they gave me.”

The national Voice of Democracy competition was held in Washington from March 2 through March 6 and Seavey’s parents accompanied her to the event.

“I learned so much from this trip. The most important thing that I learned is to not be afraid to try new things,” Seavey said. “Submitting my essay to this contest opened the door for an incredible, life-changing experience that I will never forget. I was also able to learn incredible things about our nation's history by visiting memorials in Washington D.C.”

In addition to the $2,000 scholarship she earned at the national level, Seavey received a $750 scholarship for winning the Maine Voice of Democracy and she also earned a $200 check from the Windham VFW for her win at the local level last November.

She said she’s considering using the scholarships she received for further education after she graduates from Southern Maine Community College.

VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman said he is impressed by how well Seavey represented Windham in the state and national competitions and very proud of what she has been able to accomplish.

“This year our VFW Post 10643 was thrilled to have chosen Anna Seavey to represent our post and move on to the district level. Anna then won at that level which meant she moved on to compete at the state level,” Goodman said. “We were ecstatic that Anna won, which meant she would be representing the State of Maine in a four-day all expenses paid trip for her and her parents to Washington, D.C.”

Goodman did not attend the festivities in Washington earlier this month, but said he watched it online and was impressed watching Anna march in with Maine’s VFW State Commander.

“Anna is a delightful young woman with an engaging personality and I’m sure this was an experience of a lifetime for her and her parents,” Goodman said. “They must be so proud of Anna, the person she is, the essay she wrote and in her delivery. Clearly, Anna is on her way to an extremely bright future and our post thanks her for her participation in our annual essay contest and allowing us to be a part of this incredible journey.” <

Friday, May 20, 2022

American Legion announces Windham Memorial Day celebration plans

More than 950 flags will be placed on the graves of Windham's
fallen veterans as part of the American Legion Post 148's 
celebration of Memorial Day this year. Other activities
include a parade, a gathering and observance at Windham 
High School, and a picnic at the Windham Veterans Center on
Memorial Day, May 30. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   
By Ed Pierce

American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 invites the community to join its local veterans as they observe Windham’s Memorial Day celebration.  

Legion members say they missed seeing the public turn out on Memorial Day the last two years. The pandemic put a halt to the celebration in May 2020 and a torrential rain washed out last year’s event.

For more than 30 years, the Field-Allen Post has been planning the town’s Memorial Day events.

This year the Legion will be conducting its traditional events with a few new twists. They are asking the community to increase their involvement with floats or decorated vehicles to replace some of the more traditional entries that may not be available.

At one time in the past the Memorial Day parade was the largest parade in town with no competition from Summerfest and was extremely well attended. Over the past few years, it has become a shadow of its former self, said Post 148 Adjutant David Tanguay. 

“The good news is that the Windham High School Marching Band is back this year along with the Windham Primary School chorus,” he said.  

The Legion’s preparation for the Memorial Day events starts in January each year with notifications, requests and planning of the respective events. In early May the flags that are to be hung on the utility poles around town are assembled and made ready.

New flags are ordered as needed, as well as ordering some 950-plus flags to be placed on the graves of our fallen veterans. Since 2005, the Legion has placed the 100 flags around town in preparation for the summer and Memorial Day.

Tanguay said that this year the flags will go up on the weekend of May 21. The program is a collaboration between the Town and the Legion. Windham purchases the flags on a triennial cycle and the post provides the hardware and manpower to place the flags. 

The flags fly until Labor Day, Tanguay said.

During the week before May 21, teams of veterans will fan out over the 22 smaller cemeteries in Windham for the veterans buried there, to replace/place the flags on their grave sites.

“On May 21, weather permitting, teams of veterans and community members will meet at 9 a.m. at Arlington Cemetery in North Windham adjacent to the fire station to place the final 350-plus flags on the veteran’s graves. 

Tanguay asked that if any families or groups are interested in helping, a great opportunity exists for the community to have a teaching moment and share in the flag program.  

“At Smith Cemetery, the town is fortunate to have a group of our young cadets from the Windham High School who will place over 200 flags at the cemeteries at the rotary,” he said.

Memorial Day on Monday May 30 will be the Legion’s busiest day with multiple events and several opportunities for the community to get involved.

Windham’s Memorial Day Parade begins at 9 a.m. from the Town Hall on School Road and proceeds onto Route 202 in the direction of Windham High School. 

The best vantage point for viewing the parade is from the area around the intersection of Windham Center Road and Route 202.  

“This year the Legion is asking for business and community support to make the parade truly memorable,” Tanguay said. “There is also a need for open vehicles, convertibles preferred, to provide rides for some of our less ambulatory, senior veterans. We will be using the Korean War-era M-37 Truck for our veterans as well and ask that if any vet would like to join us in the parade, please give me a call. We will find room for you.”

He said that the parade is not limited to a specific war era, any veteran who would like to march with the Legion or VFW component is welcome. All groups or individuals desiring to join the parade should meet and check in by 8:45 a.m. in front of the Windham Town Hall on School Road.

According to Tanguay, advanced registration would be helpful. When you arrive, you will receive a location in the parade. If you march, please do not throw items that may draw young individuals into the line of march or traffic.  

The parade is a short jaunt from School Road to the Windham High School lower parking area and terminates at the town’s Veterans Memorial Flagpole in front of Windham High School.

“At 10 a.m. the Memorial Day Ceremony commences,” Tanguay said. “Our guest speaker this year is U.S. Army Lt. Col. Wally Clark.”

The Master of Ceremonies for the event will be Post 148 Commander Tom Theriault. Ceremonial events include: WHS band performances, a wreath laying, a bell tolling for our lost Windham veterans this year and ceremonial burning of flags removed from veterans’ graves, followed by the traditional rifle salute and the playing of Taps.

Those events will be followed with an open house at noon at the Windham Veterans Center with a picnic style luncheon open to the public hosted by the Field-Allen Post.  There will be a brief wreath ceremony prior to the picnic in the Windham Veterans Center Memorial Garden. Following the ceremony, a picnic luncheon will be provided.

All the events are free and open to the public. Please note that some COVID-19 protocols may still be in place for these events based on guidelines for the end of May.

“The post sincerely hopes that you can find the time to join us for one or more of these events over the Memorial Day period and help us celebrate the 104th years of service by the Legion to veterans and the community,” Tanguay said.

To volunteer support or register an entry in the parade please contact Tanguay at 207-892-1306. <

Friday, November 19, 2021

Ceremony recalls contributions of local veterans

VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman is flanked
by student essay contest winners during the annual Veterans
Day observance held at the Windham Veterans Center on
Nov. 11. At left is Jacob Williams, who won the VFW's
Patriot's Pen contest, and Jacob's brother, Sam Williams, who
won the VFW's Voice of Democracy contest. Both essay
contest winners attend Windham Christian School.
By Ed Pierce

Every year, America pauses on Nov. 11 to pay respect to those who have worn the military uniform of the United States and right here in Windham, this year’s local Veterans Day observance was hosted at the Windham Veterans Center by VFW Post 10643.

Commander Willie Goodman of the Windham VFW led observance which included the presentation of student essay contest winners and a speech by Dennis Brown, a longtime area veterans advocate.

With State Senator Bill Diamond, State Representatives Patrick Corey and Mark Bryant, and former State Representative and State Senator Gary Plummer in attendance at the observance, Brown related stories of how he became involved with Easterseals and the Veterans Count organizations that assist veterans.

“It’s meant a great deal to work with veterans and to make a difference in their lives,” Brown said. I grew up during the Vietnam era and the treatment of veterans returning from Vietnam bothered me.”

When an opportunity arose for Brown to join Easterseals when he moved to Maine, he said he eagerly volunteered to help because their efforts are directed at improving the lives of veterans in the state. 

“A lot of veterans just need an advocate,” Brown said. “It’s pretty daunting if you don’t know the road about how to get there.

According to Brown, the military’s motto of “never leaving anyone behind” is more important and relevant than ever and that’s why he continues to champion veterans’ causes and fundraisers such as this past summer’s Veterans Count rappelling event in Portland.

“We don’t leave our veterans behind,” Brown said.

Goodman also introduced this year’s 2021 VFW Patriot’s Pen essay winner and 2021 VFW Voice of Democracy essay winner and had them read their essays to the audience.

Goodman said that the Patriot's Pen essay competition is open to all middle school students, including home schoolers, in grades 6 to 8. Students were invited to write a 300- to 400-word essay on this year's theme, "What is Patriotism to Me?

Patriot’s Pen winner Jacob Williams, a seventh grader attending Windham Christian School, won $200 for his essay and will now advance to the district level essay competition.

“Last year I won second place for the town and this year I thought I would try to do it again. Because our class got the VFW assignment late, I was the only one in my class to enter in the contest,” he said. “I chose my topic because my great-grandfather served in the Vietnam War, and I wanted to write a little about him. I plan to put my prize money into savings for in the future if I want to buy a car or save for college.”

Jacob’s brother, Sam Williams, attends Windham Christian School, and won this year’s local Voice of Democracy essay contest.

“For a while now, I have viewed our country with concern. Divisions and apathy have infiltrated America, and we have left the security of our foundation in the Lord and the Bible,” he said. “The thought struck me that I could use flag burning as a symbol for the apathy that, in my opinion, is very dangerous to our country. I have won prizes from the VFW for an essay I wrote three years ago. The topic differed immensely from this year's focus. That year I emphasized the good that is present in our country, which from the topic ‘Why I Honor the American Flag.’ But this year, with the topic ‘America, where do we go from here,’ I decided to be honest about the state of our nation, that we are struggling but not beyond hope.”

Like his brother, Sam Williams will advance to the district level of the Voice of Democracy competition with his essay for high school students.

The observance then moved outside where former American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 Commander and World War II veteran Carroll MacDonald joined post color guard members in placing a commemorative wreath in the veteran’s garden. An honor guard fired a 21-gun salute which was followed by the playing of “Taps” by Roger Timmons of the VFW.

Afterward VFW and American Legion members and their families joined observance participants at a special Veterans Day luncheon at the Windham Veterans Center. <

Friday, April 7, 2017

James Mannette awarded top prize in VFW essay competition for a second time by Walter Lunt

James Mannette, 17, of Windham advanced his first-place win in a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) essay competition from the local to the district level. Mannette, a Windham High School senior, was honored recently at the annual Deering Memorial Post 6859 Awards Banquet in Portland for his winning entry in the Voices of Democracy Scholarship competition. The competition encourages students from grades 9 to 12, to express their views on democratic ideas and principals. His dissertation, titled “My Responsibility to America,” won first prize at the Windham VFW Post 10643 last November.

Mannette wrote that as Americans, “. . . we are privileged to live our lives freely, safely, and to follow our beliefs.” He acknowledged that part of the reason such privileges prevail is due to the U.S. Armed Forces.

“I view my responsibility to America as one serving in the Armed Forces.” He drew a parallel between his participation in sports and the military. “[Individual and team sports] helped me develop perseverance and determination which are traits servicemen and women need to work together to build a solid team. I consider the U.S. Armed Services the ultimate team.”

Windham Post Commander Willie Goodman said Mannette’s essay was impressive and inspirational, “. . . with his vision of America, his personal growth, and what he sees as his personal responsibility.”

District 10 encompasses eight Southern Maine towns. Mannette’s award included a check, a certificate naming him an outstanding spokesman for freedom, and a VFW medallion.

Reading his essay
During the Portland ceremony, Mannette read his essay aloud to the audience of uniformed veterans, family and friends, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling and other guests. His presentation was greeted with a standing ovation. Mannette was reportedly stunned and speechless by the enthusiastic response. “For them to give me such respect is humbling - They deserve all the respect. I basically wrote about personal experiences I had during my trip to the Air Force Academy summer seminar and my junior ROTC group at Windham High School [and] varsity sports. The whole team works together to accomplish something better than one can do individually.”

Mannette was also recently named recipient of Windham High School’s Principal’s Award, in recognition of a senior’s academic excellence, outstanding school citizenship and leadership. An Honors Luncheon for Mannette and other award winners from around the state will be held in Bangor on Saturday, April 15.

Mannette’s future plans include the military. He says he has applied to the U.S. Air Force, Naval and Merchant Marine Academies. “My dream would be to fly”, he shares.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Community packs Veteran Center to celebrate local service members - By Michelle Libby

The Windham Veterans Center was standing room only on Friday, November 11, Veteran’s Day. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10643 hosted the event to recognize service men and women from around the world and in the local area.

“Fewer than 10 percent of Americans can claim the title Veteran. Far less than 1 percent of our US population is currently defending our Nation,” they said on the program for the event. The audience full of veterans was flanked by the Windham Chamber Singers and Boy Scout Troop 805, who participated in the ceremony. The Chamber Singers sung the National Anthem and the Boy Scouts presented the flags. 

“Veterans Day is an important day when the country honors all the military who wore the uniform. This is a great day when the veterans and the community come together and we are thankful we live in an area where we get so much community support for our event,” said Windham VFW post commander Willie Goodman. 

The keynote speaker was 88-year-old Korean War Veteran Jerry Black. He celebrated his 61st wedding anniversary this year with his wife Mildred. His life story is worthy of more than a few lines in a speech, but he did his best to give the audience a flavor of his adventurous and exciting life.
Some of the highlights started with his Scout leader being drafted, thus ending his Scouting career. 
Everything was recycled for the war effort and everyone scoured the countryside for items that could be used. He went barefoot for four years because his family couldn’t afford shoes. He saved his metal toothpaste tubes to recycle for a new one, the old one going toward the war effort. Victory Gardens were important in war time. People put them in their front yards. With no driver’s license, he purchased a red, model T fire engine. 

“I saw Mrs. Pratt (after Mr. Pratt had passed away) and told her, ‘for $35 I could take that home tomorrow’.” She agreed and he paid cash for it. He still owns the engine, but it is now at the Owls Head Transportation Museum. He used the engine along with five of his buddies to help put out 47 fires. Every time the bell rang, they ran for the engine. 

He joined the Navy out of high school and was put on ship number 821, the USS Johnston out of Rhode Island. He chose the Navy because, “I’ll have a warm bunk, hot meal and floating all over the ocean,” he told the crowd. He got license plates for all of his cars, RV, trailer and motorcycle with the number 821. He told his wife he used that number because it was the date they were married.
He took an Honor Flight last July. “I’m just a little guy from Maine, putting a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” he said. 

His wonder at the world and his down to earth attitude brought many to tears. He was given an Eagle head cane for his service by Norm Devonshire from Distinctive Carvings. He carved the cane as a part of an ongoing program by Maine Woodcarvers. 

Devonshire also carved the Fallen Warrior Memorial also called the Soldier’s Cross. The wooden statue took 250 hours over 2 years to carve. He came down with cancer while working on it, he said. “It was something I wanted to do for several years.”  
Bill Diamond, Jerry Black and Willie Goodman

Community members came to honor the veterans. “It’s important for me to stay in touch with the veterans,” said Sue Plourde, who worked for Hannaford for 30 years and did a lot of work as they were building the center. 

Milo Jackson came from Limington. He was honoring his family members who were in the military. He purchased pavers for some of them, which were dedicated at the ceremony on Friday. “It’s kind of nice they do this for people,” Jackson said. 

Windham High School senior James Manette was announced as the winner of the Voice of Democracy contest. His speech was moving and inspirational. He is hoping to attend the US Air Force Academy in the fall. He attended a summer academy there where he started to learn about military ethics. 

“No one gets left behind. You are part of something bigger than yourself,” he quoted from his essay.
The veterans wanted to thank KFC for the donation of 400 pieces of chicken, Buck’s Naked BBQ for the potato salad and cole slaw, Sam’s Club and BJ’s for the donation of cups and plates and Sam’s Club for the cake. Kelly and Richard Sebeftyen donated Kettle Korn and Kanaan LaPierre from Westbrook donated special desserts.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Carol Otley is named Maine VFW Teacher of the Year - By Walter Lunt
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Hundreds of students, staff, parents and guests were gathered at the Manchester School gymnasium last week in celebration of Community Day, the culmination of months of hard work by students who contributed time and effort to projects in their community and around the world.

As one class presented service awards acknowledging the work and bravery of local police/fire officials, the warden service and local veterans, a surprise announcement turned the tables on who was honoring who. Willie Goodman, commander of VFW Post 10643 took the microphone and announced that the school’s own Carol Otley had been chosen to represent the Maine VFW as Teacher of the Year, 2016.
Loud, enthusiastic applause followed. Otley, whose fourth grade class had just recognized Goodman and fellow veteran Col. Bob Akins, was picked by a VFW state board after reviewing teacher semi-finalists from 10 other districts in Maine.

“Mrs. Otley (demonstrates) outstanding leadership and tireless effort in teaching and fostering citizenship and patriotism in our community,” wrote Manchester principal Danielle Donnini in her letter of nomination.

Commander Goodman had glowing remarks about Otley’s selection.

Her class consistently engages in “amazing moments of patriotism,” he said, such as having “veterans speaking to her classes about their experiences (one played Amazing Grace to the class for Veterans Day), visits to the state capital, and on this Community Day, class donations of birdhouses to raise money for veterans’ nursing homes.

“She continues to nurture a seed that will help our youth grow into productive, law abiding citizens with patriotism, respect and genuine pride for our nation,” said Goodman.

Otley will receive a cash prize and a plaque at a ceremony in June at the VFW state convention in Portland.

“I am humbled and honored. I look up to such great men and women. And I salute them,” said Otley after the Community Day announcement.
She will compete for the national VFW title in Kansas City this summer.

Other Community Day observances included cash donations to various non-profit organizations from classes that had conducted fundraising projects. One group built so-called “buddy benches” for use on the playground. Any student feeling lonely or having a tough day is encouraged to use the bench and converse with others who have a sympathetic ear. School principal Chris Howell was the keynote speaker for the occasion. Howell congratulated the students on their fundraising and projects and encouraged all to always look for opportunities to help others and to be kind. 

“Always think before you speak,” he advised, and reinforced his remarks with a quote from President Woodrow Wilson: “I’ve never had to apologize for something I didn’t say.”