Veterans are revered on the eleventh day of the eleventh month each year for the things they did while serving America in uniform. Old uniforms are dusted off to see if they still fit, memories of courage, peril and sacrifice resurface and fallen friends are celebrated.

The focus of Veterans Day is usually on the past. Some veterans, however, didn’t stop serving others when they left the military.

Bob Akins, 70, of Raymond joined the Marine Corps in 1956 and retired a Colonel in 1986.

“One of the first things you learn is you do not volunteer,” said Akins. He said civilian life is very different, he has been a town selectman, donated over 7 gallons of blood, and volunteers at local elections.

He called voting “the core of democracy. Without it, we have nothing,” he said. Akins said low voter turnout is a problem, and added that America never exceeded a 65 percent turnout in the twentieth century.

He has served all over the world in uniform, including Japan, Germany, Vietnam and the Dominican Republic during the revolution in the earl 1960s.

While stationed in a village in the Vietnam War he started a program called Side By Side, where marines under his command with vocational skills worked with villagers doing things like plumbing, carpentry and fishing. Akins said this helped build trust and friendship with the Vietnamese.

Now with a wife, seven children and 10 grandchildren, Akins said he doesn’t believe only people who have been shown kindness end volunteering.

“I think if you haven’t been treated really well, there’s a greater reason to do it,” said Akins.

Lieutenant David DeGruchy, 53, of the Windham Police Department said he wanted to be a police officer back when he was in high school, but knew he was going to be drafted so he enlisted in the Army.

After starting his law enforcement degree in 1972, DeGruchy was in the Army from 1972 to 1975 and was stationed in Butzbach, Germany, which is north of Frankfurt.

DeGruchy went back to school when he got out, completed his law enforcement degree in 1976 and joined the Windham Police Department in in 1978. He was promoted to sergeant in 1982 and Lieutenant in 1989.

“My interest was in social type work, but I didn’t want to be a social worker,” said DeGruchy of becoming a police officer. He said his time in green helped prepare him for his time in blue by providing him with life experience.

“For some it’s college, for me it was the military,” he said. He said the interactions he experienced in the military helped prepare him for his job serving Windham.

Andre Lacey, 36, of Casco was a surgical technician in the Air Force from 1989 to 1993. He assisted surgeons operating on wounded troops, such as during the invasion of Panama in 1989 and Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

Lacey said he didn’t feel he was cut out for college and enlisted after high school. He was honorable discharged as a senior airman/sergeant. He is now a volunteer football and baseball coach for Lake Region Middle School, and an assistant coach for the basketball team and some high school teams.

Lacey started when his son was in recreation basketball in 2001 and there wasn’t a coach available.

“I’m big on respect,” said Lacey of his coaching style. “People think it has to do with my military background, but it’s the way I was raised.” His players can only refer to him as “coach” or “Mr. Lacey,” including his own kids when they’re on the field.

Lacey said he hopes to continue to coach for as long as he can.

“If I could possibly head coaching the high school team in the next 15 years, I’d be happy doing that for life,” he said.

Recently Allen Crabtree, 66, of Sebago has been a selectman, member of the fire department and a Red Cross volunteer, but his resume also includes 9 years in the Air Force as an intelligence officer.

During the war in Vietnam he performed photo interpretations, which included detecting enemy structures, fuel depots and targets from photographs taken by pilots.

Other accomplishments in his military career was locating Soviet nuclear weapons and keeping track of the activity around them.

“That was at the height of the cold war, so there was a lot of tension,” said Crabtree.

He later had the responsibility of giving the joint chiefs of staff a daily briefing in the pentagon on the state of the world. He said that helped him learn to process and compact information quickly, which helps him at his volunteer position in the Red Cross.

“When there is a disaster we’ll go out to where ever the location is and get the word out about the Red Cross services people will have a need for,” he said. Crabtree said he signed up while watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

He also writes news reports for the Red Cross and acts as a media specialist. He has worked around floods, tornados, and hurricanes.

“Anywhere Mother Nature has not been very nice to people,” he said.

Dana Stetson-Reed, 53, is the pastor at the North Windham Union Church, United Church of Christ and a Navy Reserve chaplain. He is being called for his second tour of duty in 2008 and divides his time between serving the religious needs of his civilian and armed service congregations.

“For me, it’s been a dual career. I’ve been a Navy Reserve chaplain as long as I’ve been a civilian parish pastor,” said Reed.

He said he saw a glossy flyer in the mail room when he attended Bangor Theological Seminary about becoming a chaplain and kept the idea rattling around his head for a year,

In 1986 he graduated from seminary school and went through basic training.

“You just can’t come into the Navy as a chaplain without the endorsement of the religious body you represent,” he said.

He said when he gets a phone call he has to check the area code to see if he’s going to answer it as “Chaplain Reed” or “Dana Reed.”

“I’m a little bit more informal in my civilian work,” he said.

He was called into service for a year at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in 2002, 14 months after he became a pastor in Windham. His second tour of duty, which begins January 2nd and will last a year, will put him in Camp Pendleton, California and around a month in Iraq.

“I’m feeling more needed for a part of the greater Naval force than I’ve ever felt. I’ve been more willing now to make that sacrifice, to be away from my wife and kids…. than I ever have before,” said Reed.

Reed1: Commander Dana Stetson-Reed, a Navy Reserve chaplain and the senior minister at the North Windham Union Church, United Church of Christ, burns a collection of American flags on Memorial Day in tribute to Maine soldiers who have died for their country.Lacey2: Lacey today giving commands to his football players at a game in Naples.Lacey1: Andre Lacey at Lackland Air Force Base San Antonio, Texas in 1989 receiving his first Air Force promotion, from Airman basic to Airman.


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