Honors restored: Surprise ceremony replaces World War II medals Maine veteran lost in fire

Posted Aug. 13, 2013, at 7:56 a.m.
Roger Levesque, 89, looks at his new set of military honors, earned in WWII, with daughter Patty McKeon at a surprise ceremony in U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree's Portland office Monday. Levesque's original medals were lost in a house fire.
Roger Levesque, 89, looks at his new set of military honors, earned in WWII, with daughter Patty McKeon at a surprise ceremony in U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree's Portland office Monday. Levesque's original medals were lost in a house fire. Buy Photo
World War II veteran Roger Levesque, 89, of Springvale (left) smiles while being given a new set of military medals, Monday in U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree's Portland office, replacing his originals, lost in a house fire. With him are family members (from left) daughter Patty McKeon, grandson-in-law Scott King, great-grandson Gage King and granddaughter Tina King.
World War II veteran Roger Levesque, 89, of Springvale (left) smiles while being given a new set of military medals, Monday in U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree's Portland office, replacing his originals, lost in a house fire. With him are family members (from left) daughter Patty McKeon, grandson-in-law Scott King, great-grandson Gage King and granddaughter Tina King. Buy Photo
Roger Levesque, 89, holds his new set of military honors, earned in WWII, at a surprise ceremony in U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree's Portland office Monday. Levesque's original medals were lost in a house fire.
Roger Levesque, 89, holds his new set of military honors, earned in WWII, at a surprise ceremony in U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree's Portland office Monday. Levesque's original medals were lost in a house fire. Buy Photo
World War II veteran Roger Levesque, 89, of Springvale smiles while being given a new set of military medals, Monday in U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree's Portland office, replacing his originals, lost in a house fire.
World War II veteran Roger Levesque, 89, of Springvale smiles while being given a new set of military medals, Monday in U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree's Portland office, replacing his originals, lost in a house fire. Buy Photo
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (left) arranged for a new set of WWII medals to be awarded to Roger Levesque (seated) at her Portland office Monday. Levesque's original set were lost in a house fire.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (left) arranged for a new set of WWII medals to be awarded to Roger Levesque (seated) at her Portland office Monday. Levesque's original set were lost in a house fire. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — When Roger Levesque’s home in the Sanford village of Springvale caught fire nearly 15 months ago, he lost a lot of possessions.

But, his daughter, Patricia McKeon said Monday, “He kept saying the only things he really missed were those medals.”

Levesque, now 89, lost five awards he earned serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. On Monday, he was invited out for a shopping trip by his daughter and surprised by a turn down toward Portland’s Fish Pier, where the local office of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, is located.

There, the congresswoman and her staff presented the York County man with replacements for each of the awards he lost: a Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and an Honorable Service lapel button from World War II.

“You can tell from his story he served his country well,” Pingree told the BDN on Monday afternoon. “Those medals meant a lot to him and he probably never thought he’d get them back.”

Levesque said when his daughter picked him up Monday for an afternoon on the town, he “didn’t expect anything.”

“It was a surprise,” he said. “She said she was going to buy something for me. I said, ‘I don’t need anything.’”

Nothing he could get from a store, anyway.

About a month ago, son-in-law Kevin McKeon called Pingree’s office unsure of what could be done to help Levesque regain some recognition for the valor his country honored more than 60 years ago.

“I called up just hoping to be pointed in the right direction,” McKeon recalled Monday. “I got a call back in a week, saying, ‘This [ceremony] is what we want to do for you.’ I said, ‘This is like Christmas in July.’”

Levesque said he joined the Army at the age of 19.

“I had never been away from home,” he said. “It was an experience for me. I had some good times and some bad times. I was in Germany and France — I was at the Battle of the Bulge, all the campaigns.”

When he returned home from the war, he said he spent decades trying to take his mind off the violent experience, working civilian jobs “70 or 80 hours a week to get rid of the nerves.”

“Some people don’t like to talk about it,” Levesque acknowledged, but he said he’s never minded sharing his experiences from the war with younger generations.

“I’m glad I fought for my country and everything turned out well,” said Levesque, who still lives in Springvale, in a different house than the one that burned.

Levesque attributed his good health in old age to “keeping busy,” like by annually splitting and stacking firewood, as well as what his daughter joked has been “a strict diet of ice cream.”

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