BREWER, Maine — The idea is to preserve some of the history of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion of the 172nd Mountain Infantry — the only infantry unit in the state — and to honor soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
In the midst of renovations to the Maine Army National Guard’s Brewer Armory, the unit’s home, a group of active-duty soldiers and veterans came up with the idea to renovate one of the armory’s backrooms into a memorial conference room.
“It will have a memorial for the two guys killed in their last deployment,” Army veteran Charles “Dusty” Fisher, a troop greeter who served five years in the Maine Legislature, said Tuesday. “It’s going to be a pretty special place.”
Staff Sgt. Dale James Kelly Jr., 48, of Richmond and Staff Sgt. David Michael Veverka, 25, a University of Maine senior, were killed by a roadside bomb on May 6, 2006, while serving in Iraq with the Brewer unit.
The group plans to adorn the conference room’s walls with historic Army infantry items and install a marker for the unit’s fallen soldiers, Maj. Darryl Lyon said Tuesday.
To ensure tax dollars are not used to create the memorial conference room, which also will include a small library, the planners created the Maine Infantry Foundation, a nonprofit group. Lyon is vice president of the foundation.
“We want it to be a working conference room,” he said. “We want to turn this room into a museum to highlight the history of the infantry. There is such a rich history.”
Brewer’s Mountain Infantrymen are a uniquely trained unit, Staff Sgt. David Simmons, rear detachment commander for the unit, said Tuesday.
“It’s the only unit in the Army that has real mountainous terrain training,” he said. “They train in technical climbing, ice climbing and how to live in high altitudes.”
The 172nd was organized in Rumford in 1984 and moved to Brewer in 1990. The city was also once home to a specially trained river-crossing unit, Simmons said.
Nickerson & O’Day Inc. of Brewer has renovated much of the armory over the last couple of years, adding a new roof, windows, bath and shower rooms, and a new floor, Simmons said.
“The floor was really bad pavement,” he said. “Big chunks were coming up.”
Now all the lights are energy-efficient and turn on by motion detection, and the armory’s individual room heating systems are activated when lights are turned on, Simmons said. The local construction company is still working on the kitchen area, he said.
Once the memorial conference room is completed, the foundation’s focus will change to raising funds to “provide scholarships and aid to families of the unit,” Lyon said.
The room also will be made available for use by the public, including Boy Scouts and school groups, and will be used by the Colonel Lewis Millett Chapter of the National Infantry Association.
The room is far from done — there is still no flooring, and parts for the display cases have been stained and are scattered around the room — and the group’s deadline is fast approaching, Lyon said.
“We have about half of the money we need” to finish the project, he said.
Those who have historic items to donate to the museum, who want more information or to make a donation may go to the foundation’s website, maineinfantryfoundation.org.
The deadline for the memorial conference room’s completion will coincide with the date the unit’s 170 or so soldiers, now deployed to Afghanistan, return home.
“The goal is Dec. 15, 2010 —that’s their return date,” Lyon said. “We want to have it done when Bravo Company returns.”