Whether you walk, run or simply watch, there are a number of ways to remember veterans in Windham this Memorial Day. Events dedicated to Vietnam veterans and to raise funds in honor of the late Toby Pennels are scheduled.

Following the Memorial Day Parade, the American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 will dedicate 53 granite pavers to individuals from Cumberland County who were killed in action during the Vietnam War.

The laying and dedication of the pavers is part of a three-year effort by the American Legion to honor Vietnam veterans in the region. On Veteran’s Day last fall, the post dedicated a granite memorial stone at the Windham Veterans Center to those killed in Vietnam.

First Vice Commander Rod Vosine said he has attempted to contact the families of those killed in action, but has had difficulty tracking them down. The list of names was generated from a national archive.

Commander Mel Greenier said the pavers are an emotional way to honor the dead because “it’s a lasting memorial, and their names will be there forever.”

For members of the post, the dedication has “some strong significance because a lot of us are Vietnam veterans,” Greenier said, “and that memorial garden will stay there a long time, long after us.”

The post has raised approximately $6,000 for the paver project.

Greenier said eventually, the goal is for the memorial garden to honor all wars, “and right now we’re celebrating Vietnam.”

Following the dedication of the Vietnam veterans’ memorial stones, the post will dedicate another 169 pavers for veterans in the Windham area. Friends and family of area veterans have been purchasing the pavers since February, Greenier said.

“We expect a lot of them are still alive, and their families will be there as well, so there will be a big crowd at our little hall,” Vosine said.

In honor of Memorial Day and the life of Toby Pennels, his wife and community members will hold a 5K race and a 1-mile run/walk to benefit Toby’s Dream Project on the Saturday before Memorial Day.

Pennels died at age 55 in the fall of 2014 in a motorcycle accident. A retired Army colonel, he was president of the Windham Veteran’s Association and a member of the school board for more than a decade.

“He was involved in a lot,” said Pennel’s wife, Brenda Pennels, a co-director of the race, “which is why when he died it hit so many people.”

To honor his memory, members of the community rallied to pave the Windham Veteran’s Center parking lot, one of her husband’s biggest goals, Pennels said. Last spring, the first annual 5k race raised $8,000, topping off a $50,000 fundraising campaign in the effort to pave the parking lot.

Thus, Toby’s Dream Project was born and continues as an initiative to give back to the community in his memory.

Registration fees for the race and donations to the project will benefit three causes: the Windham Veteran’s Center, a scholarship for a Windham High School senior in Pennels name and the Windham cross-country team, which helps to put on the event.

The race is less about physical competition, said Windham cross-country coach Jeff Riddle, co-race director, and “all about spreading Toby’s message of service, leadership and family values.”

Pennels’ biggest message, according to his wife, was “improve your position,” a term he learned during his 30 years in the Army.

The term resonated with her husband because “he liked the idea of always making something better,” she said. It became a motto for his adult life.

Pennels recalled her husband using the phrase in one of their last conversations before his accident. She was lamenting their chore of yardwork, and he told her,   “‘Stop whining, we’re improving our position,’” she said.

In addition to the race, the May 28 event will feature speaker Col. Scott Venable, a longtime Army friend of Toby Pennels. The Windham Kids Choir will sing, and attendees will have the opportunity to enter a raffle for a paddleboard donated by Kittery Trading Post. There will be a station at the starting where attendees may write a letter to a soldier.

“We want it to be about Memorial Day, and for people to come together for a fun and challenging race event,” said Riddle.

To be considered for the scholarship, students must write an essay describing how the $2,000 will help them improve their own position, Pennels said. Last year, the first scholarship was awarded to Molly Cobb, now a nursing student at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.

Saturday, May 28

7 a.m.-3 p.m. Legion Food Drive, Wal-Mart on Route 302

8 a.m.-10 a.m. Toby’s Memorial 5K run, Windham High School

For more information and to register for the race, visit Toby’s Dream project website.

Monday, May 30

8:30 a.m. Memorial Parade assembles, Windham Town Hall

10 a.m. Memorial Day Ceremony, Windham High School

12 p.m. Open House and Picnic, Windham Veterans Center

1 p.m. Dedication of Vietnam War Pavers, Windham Veterans Center

1:30 p.m. Dedication of Veterans Commemorative Pavers, Windham Veterans Center

For more information or to make arrangements to join the parade, contact Post Adjutant Dave Tanguy at 892-3106.

Memorial roll call

Following is a list of local veterans who have died since May 2015 who will be recognized on Memorial Day with a bell-tolling ceremony. This list has been compiled by the American Legion Post 148. If the Post has missed a vet who should be recognized, please contact the Adjutant at Post 148 Adjutant, 892-1306. 

The list includes: Augustus Espeaignette, Patrick Lawler (Legion Post 148), Mike Murphy (Legion Post 148), John Gregory (WWII), Jonathon Billings (SAL/Gray, grandson of Bud Billings), Donald Andreason (Legion Post 148), George Nash Sr., Wayne Usher, George Lopes, Steve Boyden (son of Legion member John Boyden), David Michael Garry (Naples Legion Post), Joseph Labbe (Legion Post 148), George Thibideau, Alton Cain, Roy R. Ingalls Jr., Leonard Sanborn (Legion Post 148), Donald Demmons, Fredrick Conti, Maria Norberta O’Connell Jerome, John LeFeir Jr., Bernie Nowak, William “Bill” Petty, Albert “Al” Phillips, Rodman Holmes, Richard Muehle, Wendell T. Graham, Donald Larrabee Sr. and Philip Kennard.

Brenda Pennels, left, and Jeff Riddle put up a sign for the Toby Pennel’s Memorial race at Windham High School. The 5K and one-mile run, held Memorial Day weekend, is “all about spreading Toby’s message of service, leadership and family values,” said Riddle. 

Pavers in honor of those killed in action during the Vietnam war were delivered to the Windham Veteran’s Center Tuesday. The pavers will be dedicated in a ceremony on Memorial Day. 

 A closer look

Windham activities on Memorial Day weekend include:

Saturday, May 28:

7 a.m.-3 p.m. Legion Food Drive, Wal-Mart on Route 302

8 a.m.-10 a.m. Toby’s Memorial 5K run, Windham High School

For more information and to register for the race, visit http://www.tobysdreamproject.org/#!register/mainPage 

Monday, May 30:

8:30 a.m. Memorial Parade assembles, Windham Town Hall

10 a.m. Memorial Day Ceremony, Windham High School

12 p.m. Open House and Picnic, Windham Veterans Center

1 p.m. Dedication of Vietnam War Pavers, Windham Veterans Center

1:30 p.m. Dedication of Veterans Commemorative Pavers, Windham Veterans Center

For more information or to make arrangements to join the parade, contact Post Adjutant Dave Tanguy at 892-3106.

 A closer look

Windham activities on Memorial Day weekend include:

Saturday, May 28:

7 a.m.-3 p.m. Legion Food Drive, Wal-Mart on Route 302

8 a.m.-10 a.m. Toby’s Memorial 5K run, Windham High School

For more information and to register for the race, visit http://www.tobysdreamproject.org/#!register/mainPage 

Monday, May 30:

8:30 a.m. Memorial Parade assembles, Windham Town Hall

10 a.m. Memorial Day Ceremony, Windham High School

12 p.m. Open House and Picnic, Windham Veterans Center

1 p.m. Dedication of Vietnam War Pavers, Windham Veterans Center

1:30 p.m. Dedication of Veterans Commemorative Pavers, Windham Veterans Center

For more information or to make arrangements to join the parade, contact Post Adjutant Dave Tanguy at 892-3106.