MILO, Maine — A local man believes that all servicemen and women, not just those who served during a war, should have a monument in their honor.
That will be the case if Ronald Knowles, 72, has his way.
Knowles is working to raise more than $20,000 to turn the corner of Elm Street into a monument for every single man and woman who served in the U.S. military.
“Everywhere we go we see memorials and most often they are memorials for veterans of wars or an era like the Korean War or Vietnam War,” Knowles said. Those veterans who served in between the wars or had jobs that did not require them to be engaged in an actual conflict have been neglected, he said.
Quoting an unknown author, Knowles said, “A veteran is someone, whether they are active duty, retired, National Guard or Reserve, who at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount of up to and including their life.”
Knowles, who came from a military family, said he dropped out of school at 17 and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He served during the Korean War and ended up in Okinawa and could very well have been shipped to Korea but the armistice already had been signed. Anyone who signs up for the military could very well pay with his life, he said, so all those who do choose to serve the country should be recognized.
His idea was hatched in June, when he started earmarking for the effort the profits from the popular jamboree he sponsors on the last Saturday of each month at the Milo Town Hall. Until then, Knowles had been spreading the profits among local organizations, from the Spanish Club to the local food cupboard. He still intends to help local organizations but his focus now is on the memorial.
The jamborees, which draw as many as 450 people, feature musicians from throughout the state. Admission is by donation, but Knowles has found that people are generous. Local merchants provide gift certificates in the amount of $25 to $50 for raffles during the shows and a Hartland couple who learned of his project donated $200. He told selectmen last week, while updating them on the project, that he has raised more than $11,000 at the jamborees, all of which have supported the community.
Knowles said the project has received great support from community members, some of whom have offered help with services and labor. Although the setup for the jamborees has fallen on his shoulders, Knowles said Donna DeWitt of Milo and other volunteers have helped ensure the events run smoothly.
The memorial project is being included for consideration in the downtown revitalization plan, according to Ken Woodbury of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, who is assisting the town’s downtown improvements. He expects that the state, which purchased the Elm Street property for the Department of Transportation’s recent road improvement project, will deed the property over to the town.
Knowles is optimistic that in two years, the town will be among the first in the state to have a memorial for all veterans.
“Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Little strokes fell great oaks,’ and that’s where I’m headed,” Knowles said.