November 17, 2017

Veterans Day Ceremony in Windham honor all who served and announce essay winners by Michelle Libby

Boy Scouts participate in the Veterans Day Activities
Less than one percent of Americans serve in the military. Last Saturday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10643 held a ceremony at the Windham Veterans Center to honor those who served and those still serving in the military. 
“Freedom is not free,” said chaplain Roger Timmons, a phrase that is often said at Veterans Day ceremonies. Many men and women have given their lives and others have made sacrifices to make the United States what it is today. 

The keynote speaker for the day was founder, director and curator of the Maine Military Museum in South Portland, Lee Humiston. 

“He’s filled with such passion. He teaches today and future generations. He embodies service above self,” said commander Willie Goodman. Humiston has many displays around the country and presently has two Prisoner of War Displays at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. 

“It’s nice to be with real Americans,” said Humiston. “In 2006, I came home. It’s the best state in the union. You get away from city center and you find real, true Americans.” 

Humiston spoke about the museum and the hard work and dedication is has taken, and continues to take, to find a location and keep the displays fresh, interesting and educational. 

“Don’t come every six months, come every 90 days. I’ll change it,” he said. He makes each display as authentic as he can, even using bricks and wood from the same time period as the display represents. Everything at the museum is donated, with all funding coming from Mainers. The small tour takes about an hour and a half. To see everything would take weeks, Humiston said. 

In the collection there are seven Purple Hearts all from Maine boys, he said. He also has a Medal of Honor from the Civil War. 

“Everything donated is taken care of with true reverence,” he added. Humiston had story after story about veterans who would come to the museum to visit their donations or remember what it was like serving. 

“One man took his last dying breath to come into the museum he’s been a part of,” Humiston said. “I
Some of the activities occurred in the Memorial Garden
am Maine’s best kept secret.” 

The Veterans Day activities also included winners of a recent essay contest.

Each year the VFW holds an essay contest. The Patriots Pen Essay winners were announced and the winners read their entries about “America’s Gift to My Generation.” Second place winner Kaitlyn Farrin, who is a sixth-grader at Windham Middle School, said “I feel even in the darkest time there is a little light. There are 1.4 million people serving, not counting veterans…There are amazing men and women who put their lives on the line to give us our freedom. That is our greatest gift.” 

First place winner was Lauren DeLuca an eighth grader from Windham Middle School. “Freedom. It’s about the word. Freedom isn’t given, it’s fought for. Freedom is what sets us apart from others…Freedom is the strongest gift we will ever receive,” she wrote. 

In the Voice of Democracy, entrants are asked to do a three to five minute speech about “American History: Our Hope for the Future.” The winner was a ninth-grader from Windham Christian Academy, Brianna Johnson. 

“Hope can move mountains. It’s what countries are built on. This is what our country is built for. Some of the most successful people were unwanted and looked down on . . . My biggest hope is we can have the most respect for each other and not tear one another down,” Johnson said. 

“It is young people like these three who will be our future leaders and I believe you will be impressed by the thoughtful content of their essays,” said Goodman. 

In the Memorial Garden, outside the Windham Veterans Center, two new granite benches were dedicated to veterans who passed away this year, John Rollins and John Gavin. 

“The goal is to remember all vets for all wars past and present,” said veteran Dave Tanguay. “Those in the military sign a blank check in support of this great nation.” 

Officials in attendance were Senator Bill Diamond, Representatives Patrick Corey and Mark Bryant, Town Manager, Tony Plante and Town Councilman, Jarrod Maxfield. The Windham Chamber Singers performed and Representative, Jessica Fay from Raymond, and newly elected officials Rebecca Cummings and Clayton Haskell were also in attendance. Boy Scout Troop 805 from Windham presented the colors and helped with the ceremony.

“We always come every year. We enjoy the young people, the essay winners,” said Army veteran, Clarence Cummings. 

 “It’s important for the Scouts to be here because it’s important for them to see what the men before them did so they can be free,” said Navy veteran and assistant scout leader Joe Cormier.

Every year on November 11, the VFW holds a ceremony at 11 a.m. in honor of Armistice Day, which ended World War I. The two essay contests winners are also announced at the same time. For more about Windham veterans, find them on Facebook under Windham Veterans Center.

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