2017-06-17 / Front Page

‘Thank you’ to World War II, Korea vets from a grateful state

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Senior Staff Writer

SANFORD — When World War II ended in 1945, Don Littlefield, U. S. Navy, was in the crow's nest near the whistle on a minesweeper.

“They blew the horn, we made it,” he said.

A bit earlier that year, Raymond Payeur, who served in the Korean War following his service in World War II, was aboard the USS Indianapolis.

“I walked around the atomic bomb,” he said, though no one knew the components of the bomb were in the crate at the time.

Ray Fortier, 94, also in the U.S. Navy, was a member of the Armed Guard aboard merchant ships, manning a gun, protecting troops and cargo. It was 3,200 miles “across the pond” said Fortier, “and we were sitting ducks all that time.”

These men and others who served in World War II are all in their 90s now. Those who served in Korea aren’t too many years behind them.

According to the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services, 113,000 Maine residents served in World War II. Five years later, the Korean War commenced, and over its three-year span 41,000 Mainers served.

Several veterans of both wars were honored Wednesday in Sanford by the state of Maine.

They were presented with coins commemorating the war in which they served, and certificates of thanks from a grateful state. There were photos, a few reminisces, and the camaraderie only those who have served in war together can know and appreciate.

Some — not all — of those who attended the ceremony at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9935  shared a story — encouraged to do so by Maine Bureau of Veterans Affairs Director Adria Horn.

“I hear it all the time,” she said, adult children of veterans telling her they didn’t know what their father did in the war. “I ask you to tell someone. Please tell someone of your stories.”

Horn, who served more than a decade in the U.S. Army and  has been a U.S. Army Reservist since 2012, said she was talking to someone about her training. The "someone" turned out to be a Korean War veteran, who replied that he was trained for one day — and was then “out the door” dropping 18 miles behind the demilitarized zone.

She pointed out Maine has the third-highest population of veterans per capita in the country.

Ceremony organizer James Bachelder, commander of the VFW and who is involved in a number of veterans groups, pointed out Wednesday was Flag Day.

“Today we honor people who went off to war for the flag,” he said.

Bachelder said similar ceremonies honoring Vietnam War veterans and women veterans would take place later this year.

Sen. Angus King's aide Bonnie Pothier spoke on behalf of the senator and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree's aide Rob McCann, a U.S. Marine veteran, spoke on her behalf.

World War II veterans honored with a commemorative coin and certificate were John R. Casinelli, Donald Littlefield, Gerard Lamontagne, Raymond Fortier and James Vanites.

Honored for their service in the Korean War were Herbert Young, Ronald Rivard, Daniel Barbano, Alden Gile, George Spulick, Robert Liberty, and Philip Ruel.

Honored for his service in World War II and Korea was Raymond Payeur.

As they stepped forward to receive their honors, some remained mum, others shared a thought or two.

Young, of the 13th Combat Engineers landed at Inchon, South Korea, and spoke of those close to him who were lost or severely wounded in the war.

“I hope the Korean War is not forgotten,” he said.

Others thought of war days long ago, and wondered about the future.

“I have a grandson in the Army,” said Robert Liberty, noting his own service in Korea, many years ago.

“Now, look at what’s happening,” he said. “We may be there (Korea) again.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or twells@journaltribune.com.

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