Stott Carleton thinks every day about his best friend Donald Workman, who died the last day of their tours serving in Vietnam. Both were excited to get home, Carleton, to meet his son for the first time; and Workman, to marry his fiancée.
The best friends sat together on the plane to Vietnam in 1969 and were assigned to different units as infantry platoon leaders. “We kept in touch while there by letters ... He was killed on our last day there. He flew home in a box in the back of the plane.”
Now Carleton honors Workman and other soldiers who have died for their country. With his black lab Skip at his side, weekdays from 4 to 5 p.m. since early May, Carleton has been carrying an American flag across the Sheepscot River from Edgecomb to Wiscasset and back, via Donald E. Davey Bridge. “We walk to honor the countless soldiers who have given all so we can be free and the tireless workers keeping us going during these trying times. We carry our precious flag to remind us all, we live in the greatest country in the world.”
He said those workers include truck drivers, like the UPS driver who peeped at him as he, Skip and Wiscasset Newspaper walked the bridge Wiscssset-bound Monday. Dog, man and flag, which was harnessed to the man via the flag’s pole, got many peeps, thumbs up and waves. Some drivers with their windows down cheered.
“When people honk, wave and smile, I’m reminded of that the most: America is truly worth fighting and almost dying for, I know,” he said in text responses Friday and Saturday. The walks are not political, he explained. “I’m simply a man who loves his country and knows firsthand the cost of freedom. We’re there to thank Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. We’re there carrying the symbol of the greatest nation on Earth to remind us all just how lucky we are.
“We’re there because right now our country is deeply divided and the hatred is palpable. We’re there because we need to heal and start talking with each other again with honesty and compassion ... and yes, I am surprised by the positive reception we have received on the bridge, and it’s been worth it every step of the way.”
At first, Carleton was propping the flag pole into his pocket for the walks; then someone came up to him and Skip and offered him the harness, he said. It helps a lot, he said, smiling.
Carleton smiled the whole time he and his dog walked, whether the longtime Edgecomb resident was talking, waving, or returning a thumbs up.
Monday’s walk was the pair’s 108th carrying the flag across the bridge and back. Winter’s coming, Wiscasset Newspaper noted. How much longer will they do their walks? Carleton wasn’t sure. But for now, he said, Skip always tells him it’s time for the next one.