On Sept. 28, the Cape Elizabeth Town Council proclaimed Oct. 5 as Ernest Brien Day. Brien is a WWII and Korean War veteran who is turning 100. From left to right, Janet Villiotte, James Rowe, Ernest Brien, and Kathleen Giering at Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park. Courtesy photo of the Cape Elizabeth Historical Society

CAPE ELIZABETH — The town council made a proclamation on Sept. 28 that designates Oct. 5, 2020 as Ernest Brien Day in honor of the veteran’s 100th birthday and his service to the United States.

There will be a brief celebration at Captain Strout Circle inside Fort Williams Park on Saturday, Oct. 17, from 11 to 11:30 a.m., in recognition of Brien. Oct. 18 will be the rain date.

Brien, who grew up in Portland, served the U.S. Army from 1940 to 1962, said James Rowe, president of the Cape Elizabeth Historical Society. For periods of time between 1940 through 1952, Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth was his home base.

While the Friends of Fort Williams Park and Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society partnered on a project in 2016 to find and document stories of those who experienced Fort Williams when it was used as a fort, Brien was one of the interview subjects, Rowe said.

“We found what was particularly interesting about Ernest’s story was what he did in between the times he was at Fort Williams,” Rowe said. “He kind of adopted Fort Williams as his military home because he always seemed to return there in between stints abroad.”

Rowe told the town council that as his interview with Brien four years ago progressed, he realized that he was in the presence of a “genuine war hero.”

“He served in Europe during WWII,” he said. “He was wounded twice in Europe, and served with incredible valor, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star, Silver Star and multiple Purple Hearts. After WWII, he came back to Fort Williams and when the Korean War broke out, he was dispatched to Korea.”

Ernest Brien, a Portland native who served in the U.S. Army during WWII and the Korean War as well as at Fort Williams, in his army uniform. Brien will turn 100 on Oct. 5. Courtesy photo of the Cape Elizabeth Historical Society

In Korea, Brien again received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart awards, Rowe said.

Keeping in contact with Brien and his daughter, Kathleen Giering, the partnering organizations invited the two back to Fort Williams for a tour, Rowe said.

Giering recently contacted Rowe to let him know that Brien was about to turn 100 years old on Oct. 5.

“(She asked,) Could we please send a card to her father?” he said. “So I’m thinking, ‘Oh, we can send him a card, but I think we can do a lot more, too, in honor of this incredible gentleman.'”

Rowe thought that sending Brien back to Fort Williams Park one more time would be fitting, he said. On Oct. 17, the Police Department’s color guard will help the public celebrate Brien’s birthday at his former home base.

COVID-19 safety measures will be in place during the ceremony, Rowe said. Masks will be needed if social distancing cannot be maintained.

Council Chair Valerie Adams thanked Rowe for his thoughtful gestures in setting up the proclamation request and celebration event.

Ernest Brien during his interview with James Rowe, president of the Cape Elizabeth Historical Preservation Society in 2016. Courtesy photo of the Cape Elizabeth Historical Society

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