WINDHAM – Guided by the same motto of his Navy Seabees, “Can Do!,” Roger Timmons, a Windham native and the town’s former code enforcement officer, has taken command of Windham Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10643.

Timmons, 70, was installed at a special ceremony Sunday at Gilbert’s Chowder House in North Windham. He succeeds Bob Akins of Raymond, who served as post commander for the last 18 months.

Timmons, who served in the Seabees – or Navy construction battalions – from 1958-1964, is excited about his new position. He said Akins and fellow officers have worked hard in the past year, increasing membership by 18 percent at a time when many service organizations are seeing reduced enrollment or outright closures, such as the American Legion post in Gorham. Timmons hopes to keep the momentum going.

“I would like to create a way that we could get more younger people involved, to reach out to those younger veterans,” said Timmons, a builder by education and trade. “And I know when they come back they’re busy, but we’ll see what we can do to reach more people.”

While Akins led combat platoons during his two tours of duty in Vietnam and retired as a colonel after 23 years in the Marines, Timmons helped build installations on the islands of Guam and Saipan in late 1950s and early ’60s.

“It was a year-long mission on Saipan,” Timmons said. “We cleared 40 acres of jungle to build the Saipan Civil Hospital. We took sand and block over from Guam. We didn’t build the hospital, but we had to set about 2-3 miles of telephone poles to get power out to the site. We drilled wells, set up a rock crusher.”

On Guam, Timmons helped lay block for duplex cement buildings with cement roofs next to the airport. He also helped build 500,000-gallon water tanks.

Timmons has been a member of the American Legion in Windham since the 1950s, but only recently became a member of the VFW post. The VFW is reserved for those veterans who either served in a war zone or received hazardous duty pay. Since Timmons and his fellow Seabees served in post-World War II Saipan, where unexploded bombs literally lay beside their bunkhouses, Timmons qualified.

But getting proof that he served in the path of danger didn’t come easy. Actually, it took about 50 years to prove it.

“We were the first ones there after the war and we had a demolition crew there with us because duds were laying everywhere, so we had to clean up the mess,” Timmons said.

The Navy had no record of Timmons’ military pay when he first sought VFW membership years ago. But a chance encounter with his former chief petty officer at a Seabee reunion two years ago provided the proof he needed.

“That’s why it took me so long. I got the chief to write a letter because I had to have proof I got hazardous duty pay while I was on Saipan, so I finally got my proof and the VFW accepted that,” Timmons said.

And once Timmons earned his bona fides, it didn’t take long for the fellow Windham VFW members to promote him to commander, taking over for Akins, who had a successful run at the top of the organization.

The former commander, who paid for dinner for all the veterans and their families at the ceremony at Gilbert’s last Sunday, said he will remain in the VFW and serve as one of three trustees who are in charge of signing financial documents.

Akins, whom Timmons described as a “tremendous leader,” is most proud of increasing membership from 59 to 72 members in his 18-month tour as commander, as well as realizing 100 percent payment of dues.

But it is time for someone new to take the helm, he said.

“It’s better to guide your ship by the stars than to guide it by the light of a passing vessel,” said Akins, remembering a famous quote. “So I just told them it’s time for somebody else to take a look at the stars and it’s time for someone else to dream new dreams.

“That’s why we move leaders around in the Marine Corps, that after 18 months or so it’s time for a new leader to come in, because when Roger comes in he’ll have all the stimuli of responding to all the men and women in the VFW and he will think of things that I never even thought of. He’ll take us to the next level.”

Roger Timmons served in the Navy Seabees – or construction battalions – from 1958-1964. The Windham native, pictured here in 1959, was installed as the Windham VFW post commander on Sunday.
Roger Timmons, in a recent photo

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.