CARIBOU, Maine — What began in 2009 as a labor of love for military veterans Doug Michaud and Carroll St. Peter, both of Caribou, came full circle on July 27 as the Veterans’ Memorial Park the two friends dreamed of building was officially dedicated.
Michaud and St. Peter began the mission of constructing the park as a place for veterans and nonveterans alike to visit and find solace while reflecting upon those who have gone to battle in defense of the nation.
Sadly, St. Peter passed away in 2011 while the park was still in the design stages. Members of the Veterans’ Memorial Park Association pushed forward, however, in honor of St. Peter and the group worked diligently to raise funds for creation of the park.
In 2011, the city of Caribou deeded over to the park association the piece of land bordered by South Main, Nylander and Lyndon streets, where the city’s Civil War memorial statue stands. Thanks to several hours of manpower, the majority of which has been donated, work has been completed on the base of the Civil War statue, a Veterans’ Memorial Park sign has been erected and a new flagpole that stands in the center of an impressive five-point star has been put into place.
The dedication ceremony began on Saturday, July 27, with the first posting of colors at the park, completed by the Loring Job Corps Honor Guard. The flag that was raised had flown previously over the nation’s Capitol at the request of Maine’s U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Caribou native.
After the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by those in attendance, Michaud led the group in prayer and introduced Phil McDonough, chairman of the Veterans’ Memorial Park Association, who served as the host of the ceremony.
On behalf of the association, McDonough expressed his gratitude to those who donated time and money to the cause and he provided a brief history of the park’s construction.
Kathy Finnemore of Collins’ office, Sarah Graettinger of U.S. Sen. Angus King’s office, and Barbara Hayslett of U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s office, all addressed the audience and congratulated the association members for their dedication and hard work.
“I would like to take this opportunity to applaud all of those who have been involved with this project and who continue to be involved to make the park align with your vision of a memorial that will appropriately honor all veterans,” Hayslett read from a letter written by Michaud.
State Sen. Troy Jackson told the crowd, “For someone like myself, who has never served in the military, it is incumbent upon us to honor the memory of our veterans. This park is a perfect place to do so.”
State Rep. Carol McElwee, a lifelong resident of Caribou, remembered past Memorial Day parades that ended with a ceremony held at the iconic local spot.
“This is a sacred place,” McElwee declared.
Cary Medical Center’s director of community relations, Bill Flagg, also congratulated the park association on behalf of the hospital. Clarence Mclaughlin, representing the Disabled American Veterans organization, thanked the association for providing the park to the public to honor all veterans.
The fact that the dedication ceremony was held on the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice was not a coincidence, and the lineup of speakers concluded with Korean War veteran Joel Theriault speaking about the war and how much the park meant to veterans such as himself.
The program concluded with a playing of taps.
According to McDonough, estimated the total cost to complete the park, including labor and material, at around $45,000. The association has been quite successful with its fundraising efforts to date and has received about $3,500 in donations from a combination of citizens and businesses throughout the city just since the beginning of summer.
Future plans for the park include the installation of two more memorials — one that features the five service emblems and one that honors prisoners of war and those missing in action. Pedestals containing historical information also would be placed in formation leading up to the Civil War statue. Completion of these projects is contingent upon receipt of the necessary donations.
Donations to the VMPA may be sent to PO Box 453, Caribou 04736.