Committee updates selectmen on proposed regional veterans monument

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 1:45pm

    A local group wants to honor the region’s war dead with a monument on Boothbay Common. Four months ago, the Boothbay Region Veterans Memorial Committee assembled with the goal of a monument in a central location within the peninsula. The monument would identify soldiers who died during wartime. The committee consists of Boothbay region veterans’ advocate and historian Sarah Sherman, American Legion Post 36 Commander David Patch, Post 36 members Ross and Trina Ragan, Vietnam veteran Robert Rice, VA New England Veterans’ Experience Office Field Consultant and Iraqi War veteran Ben Kaler, and Boothbay Town Manager and National Guard veteran Dan Bryer.

    The desire to build the monument resulted from an early fall morning conversation at the legion hall between the Ragans, Commander Patch, and Sherman, which resulted in recruiting Rice and Kaler, and in September, the committee received approval from Boothbay selectmen in adding Town Manager Dan Bryer to the team.

    The committee has met monthly, researching the feasibility of creating a monument honoring the war dead from Boothbay, East Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Southport and Edgecomb. On Jan. 22, Sherman presented answers to those feasibility questions during the selectmen’s meeting. In a prepared statement, Sherman listed the questions the committee researched: What is the importance of a war memorial? How many Boothbay region service members lost their lives during military service? Where should the monument be located? And what should the monument look like?

    The committee described a war memorial as symbolizing those who sacrificed their lives in military service. “It’s significant historically, linking the past to present, allowing people to remember community members whose loss is still felt,” read Sherman. 

    The committee believes a war memorial will be a focal point for future veteran ceremonies and community events. Paving stones, like ones in Whale Park, would be sold so family and friends could commemorate a relative, friend, battle buddy, or neighbor regardless of where they live. The committee is specifying veterans’ name placement would require being drafted or enlisted from one of the five towns (Boothbay, East Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Edgecomb, and Southport Island) and as a result of losing their life while serving directly in the military or as a direct result of service, such as killed in action, died in an accident, died from chemical exposure to nuclear, biological or chemical agent, succumbed to wounds, died as a prisoner of war, or dead by disease.

    Sherman has written eight books with several recounting local veterans’ experience in wartime. She has extensive knowledge about local war dead between 1917 to present day. Rice has done extensive research in the state archives in Augusta researching which veterans died in battles from the American Revolution through the Civil War. A current count of 76 veterans has been tabulated who died resulting from military service. 

    Sherman told selectmen the committee would like to add an Edgecomb member who could assist with identifying the town’s war dead from the American Revolution War or War of 1812, and they have reached out to them town asking for their assistance with the project. They will also be utilizing Evelyn Sherman’s (Southport Cemetery District Chairman) vast knowledge of Southport’s seven cemeteries to finalize the veterans’ list from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War for the island.

    The committee identified Boothbay Common as a central location. On Jan. 22, selectmen supported the selection and recommended placing a monument on the Common’s back interior corner, which would be out of the way of events.

    A local artist would design the monument. The committee wants to host a design contest for creating a unique memorial. Sherman explained the committee researched other monuments around the state and spoke with a Lewiston firm, Collette Monuments. “The committee recommended a design contest to the town selectmen and will judge all entries received which meet a judging rubric,” Sherman said. “The contest will narrow submissions down to two, and winner will be chosen by a public vote.”

    In conclusion, the committee recommended four steps in advancing this proposal. The first is introducing it to the public through a Boothbay Register news article. Second is launching a design contest in local newspapers. Third is creating a traveling display for the American Legion, Memorial Day and Windjammer Days parades. Fourth is using the local American Legion’s tax exempt non-profit status to receive donations. The legion would turn over donations to Boothbay for paying vendors. 

    Sherman promised to provide more details during the next selectmen’s meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12.