Below are the stories of three Maine veterans who have participated in Honor Flight Maine trips to Washington, D.C.

Paul Marshall, Hope, private first class, U.S. Army

Paul Marshall is a retired minister and former teacher and missionary, and lives with his wife, Linda Campbell-Marshall, in the home they built on a wooded hillside.

Still active at 92, he enjoys working outside and promoting his memoir, “Maine Boy Goes to War & the Story of Mizpah,” which is available on Amazon.com. Marshall said the property is perfect for him, since he grew up hunting and fishing in northern Maine.

His family was large and self-sufficient, living first in Patten and then Mattawamkeag, where his dad built a tarpaper “shack” home and a cave-like root cellar. They loved fishing Wassataquoik Stream, which wends through the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Marshall’s instinctive lay of the land and myriad days exploring the local woods and waters prepared him for what was ahead.

After finishing high school in Portland, where his family moved when his father got a wartime job at a South Portland shipyard, Marshall enrolled at the University of Maine in Orono, tapping his $250 in savings. He was soon drafted into the Army. High scores on an intelligence test landed him in officer training and college courses at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

But the war effort needed infantrymen, not more officers. He was reassigned to the 104th Infantry Division, which fought battles across France, Belgium and Holland to Germany, enduring brutal counterattacks. A month before shipping out, his platoon captain asked if someone would volunteer to be a combat medic – there was a shortage. Only Marshall volunteered, because he was worried that he couldn’t kill others.

He got little training. “Stop the bleeding” was his charge.

Marshall saw some of the war’s – and humanity’s – worst horrors. His division liberated Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp, which made weapons and had numerous subcamps. The “Timberwolves” found 3,000 dead and “750 emaciated, starving, and ill prisoners,” left when the Germans evacuated and sent the others on death marches, notes the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website. After Marshall’s platoon helped force out the SS, he briefly saw “hundreds of bodies strewn and piled everywhere,” a memory that’s never faded, he wrote in his book. Then his platoon was quickly moved on. A few days later he toured and took photos at Buchenwald concentration camp. Here, too, bodies were still piled, with just a handful of prisoners remaining.

“I still can’t believe I’m here. I’ve been through so much,” said Marshall, who earned two Purple Hearts.

At home, showing off the house, he stopped to briefly play his trumpet and harmonica. Music is a big part of his life.

Big Band music got him jitterbugging in 2016 on an Honor Flight Maine trip to visit Washington, D.C.’s World War II Memorial. “It was,” said Marshall, “so uplifting.”

Carmine A. Pecorelli, Belfast, petty officer first class, U.S. Navy; sergeant major, Army Reserve

Most veterans who travel to Washington, D.C., with Honor Flight Maine haven’t seen the World War II Memorial. Some have never been to the capital city.

Carmine A. Pecorelli of Belfast, 92, a veteran of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, holds a student award from his alma mater, The Citadel. Photo by Mary Ruoff

But Carmine A. Pecorelli, a Navy veteran who had a prominent public relations and marketing career in New Jersey prior to moving to Maine in 2004, was already familiar with the memorial, which was completed in 2004. He’d often visited the site – the focus of Honor Flight trips – with his grandchildren and taken them to Arlington National Cemetery.

When approached a few years ago about participating in an Honor Flight, Pecorelli demurred. He felt someone who hadn’t seen the memorial or even the city before should go instead.

But a leader in Belfast’s veteran community insisted, telling him, “you haven’t experienced the trip.” Pecorelli, 92, said he is glad he took the advice.

His eyes filled with tears recalling the large crowd that welcomed the veterans home from their Honor Flight at Portland International Jetport. “It’s a very moving experience,” he said. “They’re all there to say, ‘Thank you.'”

During the war, Pecorelli served on a minesweeper in the Atlantic, and also as a radarman. He left the Navy in 1946 but couldn’t go to college on the GI Bill because he’d dropped out of school in 9th grade. So he got a scholarship to a private high school and re-enrolled, at the age of 21. After graduation, he went on to The Citadel military college in South Carolina. A member of the Army Reserve from 1950–1967, he was also a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, serving in the Special Forces and teaching leadership skills used in guerilla warfare.

In October, Pecorelli traveled to The Citadel to receive the alumni association’s Alumnus of the Year award for his extensive civic and volunteer efforts on behalf of veterans, youth and others. Pecorelli still volunteers with nonprofits such as Wreaths Across America, Disabled American Veterans, Honor Flight, Knox Museum in Thomaston and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3108 in Belfast.

Donald Gould, Whitefield, private first class, U.S. Army

World War II was over by the time the Army drafted Donald Gould, 90, in November 1945. He served a little more than a year.

World War II veteran Donald Gould, 90, flies the U.S. flag outside his Whitefield home. During the aftermath of the war, he served as a prison guard in Wurzburg, Germany. Photo by Mary Ruoff

Gould dealt with the conflict’s messy aftermath. A military policeman, he manned towers with submachine guns at an Army prison in the German city of Wurzburg, which housed American prisoners charged with crimes such as rape, murder and fraud.

The medieval city center had been obliterated and most of the city destroyed by British incendiary bombs that killed thousands of people. Gould and other American soldiers couldn’t resist going to see unexploded bombs, later defused, that were lodged in a cherry orchard.

In the 1950s, Gould cleared an apple orchard to build his home, next to the house where he grew up, doing much of the construction himself. The expansive backyard has a flagpole with U.S. and Marine Corps flags, the latter in honor of a grandson who is a retired corpsman. Out front, an American flag waves along Route 218.

Gould recalled “displaced persons,” including former German soldiers seeking daywork at the Army’s Wurzburg facilities. “They were good people,” he said. “You had no idea what they had done.” Years ago, he worked on farms and in the woods. After leaving the Army, he worked as a mechanic, retiring from an Augusta auto dealership.

Since retirement, however, Gould has not slowed down. When his wife of more than 60 years, Frances, died in April, his family suggested he make an Honor Flight Maine trip, accompanied by his son, Dennis, who was his guardian on the excursion in late October this year. The day before leaving, the senior Gould was honored at Whitefield Elementary School and fielded questions from students.

Mary Ruoff is a freelance writer in Belfast.