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This Motorcycle Club Is On A Mission To Help Homeless Veterans
Seven homeless veterans could start the new year with a roof over their heads and a chance at a fresh start thanks to a motorcycle club’s years-long efforts.
In just 12 days, about a dozen members of the Garry Owen Motorcycle Club and a few local contractors made a run-down house at the former Searsmont (Maine) Apple Squeeze site on Route 3 livable again.
“The first couple guys we had in here said, ‘This place is a dump,’” Warren Ard, president of the motorcycle club, said during a tour of the building Wednesday.
Now, the renovated Garry Owen House is prepared for its first residents — a group of eight yet-to-be-selected military veterans, including one to serve as a house manager. The group’s board hopes this is just the beginning of a much larger push to ensure veterans are supported when they hit hard times.
Photo courtesy Garry Owen House
“This will be more than just a transition home,” Ard said. “This will become one large family.”
The board is waiting to receive final insurance approval, hopefully this week, before interviewing potential residents, primarily from Bangor and Portland, and bringing in the first group to start the new year, according to Lou Pelletier, president of the board.
Garry Owen House is a nonprofit organization that operates separately from the motorcycle club, formed because the motorcycle club wasn’t eligible for federal nonprofit status, Ard said. The board is made up entirely of veterans.
The house has been in the works for several years. Originally, the board hoped to build a new facility in Montville and set out to raise the estimated $750,000 needed to complete it.
After a sluggish start to fundraising, a consultant recommended that the group start smaller, get experience, and prove that the Garry Owen House could make a difference in order to secure funds from larger donors, Pelletier said.
So, the group recently turned its focus to buildings that were already standing, and it secured a lease through 2020 on the long-vacant house on Route 3. After just two weeks of labor, the group had it ready. Several local contractors also donated materials and labor toward the effort.
Photo courtesy Garry Owen House
Once the Garry Owen House is established in Searsmont, the hope is that its work will prompt more substantial fundraising contributions, allowing the group to open the new, larger Montville facility in a few years. That transitional shelter would have 12-16 beds to start, with a possible expansion to have up to 24 beds, according to Pelletier.
Ard argues that it’s vital for veterans to support one another, as they understand better than anyone what other veterans have been through. Sheltering them under the same roof could be key in helping them recover to the point where they’re able to find steady employment and stay off the streets, he said.
The name Garry Owen comes from Celtic tune “Garryowen,” which was adopted and adapted as a military march by the U.S. Army 1st and 7th Cavalry Regiments, of which Ard was a member from 1974 to 1978.
Organizers hope to address specific needs of veterans, ranging from substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder to general mistrust of the government, which may discourage some from seeking help through the Veterans Administration. Garry Owen House will work with existing agencies to provide support for its residents, Waldo Community Action Partners will provide transportation to appointments, local public health agencies will offer social worker and nursing, and Togus VA Medical Center will offer medical care.
Photo courtesy Garry Owen House
Pelletier said the hope is that veterans will use the house as a base to get themselves stable and look for work, and get any physical or emotional support they need from professionals and each other. Residents will be expected to maintain the house, and they may start a garden in the backyard.
“Most of the time, being with other veterans is what helps them get on with their lives,” Pelletier said.
For more information about Garry Owen House, or to donate, visit garryowenhouse.org. Contributions to the group also can be made through Bangor Savings Bank.
© 2016 the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
A 24-year-old soldier based at Fort Riley has been charged in federal court in Topeka with sending over social media instructions on how to make bombs triggered by cellphones, according to federal prosecutors in Kansas.
Three U.S. service members received non-life-threatening injuries after being fired on Monday by an Afghan police officer, a U.S. official confirmed.
The troops were part of a convoy in Kandahar province that came under attack by a member of the Afghan Civil Order Police, a spokesperson for Operation Resolute Support said on Monday.
Marine Maj. Jose J. Anzaldua Jr. spent more than three years during the height of the Vietnam War. Now, more than 45 years after his release, Sig Sauer is paying tribute to his service with a special gift.
Sig Sauer on Friday unveiled a unique 1911 pistol engraved with Anzaldua's name, the details of his imprisonment in Vietnam, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" accompanied by the POW-MIA flag on the grip to commemorate POW-MIA Recognition Day.
The gunmaker also released a short documentary entitled "Once A Marine, Always A Marine" — a fitting title given Anzaldua's courageous actions in the line of duty
Born in Texas in 1950, Anzaldua enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam as an intelligence scout assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
On Jan. 23, 1970, he was captured during a foot patrol and spent 1,160 days in captivity in various locations across North Vietnam — including he infamous Hỏa Lò Prison known among American POWs as the "Hanoi Hilton" — before he was freed during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973.
Anzaldua may have been a prisoner, but he never stopped fighting. After his release, he received two Bronze Stars with combat "V" valor devices and a Prisoner of War Medal for displaying "extraordinary leadership and devotion to his companions" during his time in captivity. From one of his Bronze Star citations:
Using his knowledge of the Vietnamese language, he was diligent, resourceful, and invaluable as a collector of intelligence information for the senior officer interned in the prison camp.
In addition, while performing as interpreter for other United States prisoners making known their needs to their captors, [Anzaldua] regularly, at the grave risk of sever retaliation to himself, delivered and received messages for the senior officer.
On one occasion, when detected, he refused to implicate any of his fellow prisoners, even though severe punitive action was expected.
Anzaldua also received a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his heroism in December 1969, when he entered the flaming wreckage of a U.S. helicopter that crashed nearr his battalion command post in the country's Quang Nam Province and rescued the crew chief and a Vietnamese civilian "although painfully burned himself," according to his citation.
After a brief stay at Camp Pendleton following his 1973 release, Anzaldua attended Officer Candidate School at MCB Quantico, Virginia, earning his commission in 1974. He retired from the Corps in 1992 after 24 years of service.
- 1911 Pistol: the 1911 pistol was carried by U.S. forces throughout the Vietnam War, and by Major Anzaldua throughout his service. The commemorative 1911 POW pistol features a high-polish DLC finish on both the frame and slide, and is chambered in.45 AUTO with an SAO trigger. All pistol engravings are done in 24k gold;
- Right Slide Engraving: the Prisoner of War ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor and "Major Jose Anzaldua" engravings;
- Top Slide Engraving: engraved oak leaf insignia representing the Major's rank at the time of retirement and a pair of dog tags inscribed with the date, latitude and longitude of the location where Major Anzaldua was taken as a prisoner, and the phrase "You Are Not Forgotten" taken from the POW-MIA flag;
- Left Side Engraving: the Vietnam War service ribbon inset, with USMC Eagle Globe and Anchor engraving;
- Pistol Grips: anodized aluminum grips with POW-MIA flag.
In a kind of odd man-versus-nature moment, a Russian navy boat was attacked and sunk by a walrus during an expedition in the Arctic, the Barents Observer reported Monday.