An American soldier from Caribou, who fought in World War I and managed to return home to The County, will have his legacy honored at the Caribou VFW.
Eugene Goodwin, born 1890 and lived on the corner of Collins and Prospect Street in Caribou, returned home after spending most of WWI in battle, fighting for his country and for his life.
“He fought in numerous battles,” Roger Felix, Caribou VFW Commander, said. “His campaign medal that we have has on it the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, the Meuse-Argonne offensive and the First and Second Battle of the Marne. This guy was pretty much in the heat of battle for the entire duration of World War I.”
While fighting in trenches in France , Goodwin was exposed to sulfur mustard, commonly referred to as mustard gas, which severely damaged his respiratory system. In 1922, just four years after returning home to Caribou, Goodwin succumbed to his injuries. He was in his early 30s.
Goodwin left behind a wife and children who passed down his campaign medal. It finally ended up in the hands of his granddaughter, Barbara Chapman, who lives in Florida. She connected with Felix and told him her grandfather’s story and how she was hoping to return his medal to Maine.
“Out of the blue I got a phone call from a lady in Florida and she was looking for somewhere she could send her grandfather’s campaign medal from WWI back to its home. I was like wow this is unbelievable that somebody would call when we’re thinking about that,” Felix said.
The Caribou VFW is in the midst of converting its a portion of its hall into a memorial to showcase veteran memorabilia for members and visitors.
“Our goal is to put his medal in a beautiful shadowbox with a plate on it,”Felix said.
Goodwin’s granddaughter believes her grandfather is buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Caribou, but Chapman said she hasn’t been to Maine in many years and isn’t sure.
“We’re trying to find where his grave is so we can take a photo and have his medal returning home be a kind of closed circle,” Felix said.
The VFW also plans to send an American flag to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington, where it will fly in Goodwin’s honor and then be returned to Caribou along with a certificate “so that anyone who comes to the Caribou VFW will know there have been patriots defending the nation for many years who are sons and daughters of Caribou, Maine,” Felix said.