Milo marks patriotism, call to duty

Posted May 25, 2009, at 10:04 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:13 p.m.

MILO, Maine — He rolled tanks for Gen. George Patton during the Battle of the Bulge, was wounded twice on the battlefield and had a fistful of medals for his service, but Monday was the first time George Chase, 87, of Brownville Junction ever participated in a Memorial Day parade.

“I never had the time before,” he said.

Wearing a vest covered with medals, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal, Chase watched the preparations for Monday’s parade from afar.

The veteran, whose shoulder-length gray hair poked from beneath a cap and whose chiseled face never broke into a smile, said he was lonesome and felt “dislocated” since the death of both his wife and his dog.

As the five members of the honor guard got ready for the parade, Chase worried that all five soon would be deployed to Iraq, their fates uncertain.

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The men, most from the Milo area — father and son Robert M. Coburn and Robert I. Coburn; brothers Dennis Wellman and Joe Baker; and Doug Robinson — will be going to Iraq in late June or early July.

It’s not the first time the men have been to Iraq and it likely will not be the last for the members of Maine Air National Guard, 101st Air Refueling Wing of Bangor.

“I’ll go as many times as I need to,” E5 Staff Sgt. Robert I. Coburn, 23, of Levant said Monday. Having served in the Marine Corps for four years before joining the Guard, Coburn said this would be his third deployment to Iraq where he will serve on the emergency management team. He expects his duties will involve biological and chemical detection at the base.

This will be the first time he will be deployed with his father, which excited him, the younger Coburn said.

Coburn’s father, who enlisted in 1982 and will serve his second tour in Iraq, said he is “quite proud” of his son’s patriotism and service.

The fact that all five friends will be deployed together with their unit is somewhat comforting, the men said.

For Chief Master Sgt. Wellman, who will be on his third tour in Iraq, familiarity is reassuring. “We know about what each other is capable of,” he said.

This will be the first deployment to Iraq for Wellman’s brother Tech Sgt. Joe Baker and the second tour of duty for Master Sgt. Doug Robinson. Since the unit will arrive in Iraq during the hottest months there, getting acclimated to the heat will be difficult, they said.

While the men said they would miss their families back home, they won’t worry about them too much because the military support system is excellent, the elder Coburn said.

“Our base as a whole is one big family,” he said. When the members are abroad, they watch out for one another.

“It’s a job we’ve got to do. You can’t worry about yourself — you worry about your unit members,” the elder Coburn said. You do it for the country, he said, just as generations have done the same thing over the years.

For 87-year-old George Chase, it was patriotism and a desire to help the country that prompted his battlefield experience.

Although he was shot twice, once in the leg and in his arm, he was able to walk off the battlefield, unlike many others, he said. His mind this Memorial Day was on the servicemen and women whose graves dot the countryside, he said.

“I feel very sad,” he said. “I remember my buddies, my company and all the guys who got shot.

“It’s a tough way to go.”

dianabdn@myfairpoint.net

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