Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By Paul Betit email@example.com
Don Simoneau is an Army veteran who doesn't consider himself a hero.
As people across the state gather to give thanks today, the blessings extend far beyond the bounty on the table or even the reaffirmation of family bonds.
There are many people -- outside of family and friends -- who make the broader community in Maine a better place for others and for all of us. They are volunteers. They're parents. They're teens and seniors and many others who give their time, money, labor and spirit to efforts such as helping the homeless, re-integrating felons into the community, fighting bullies in school and teaching needed skills.
Click here for a full listing of 10 Mainers for whom we are thankful, people whose work -- often unrecognized -- comforts, protects, nurtures and inspires us.
Simoneau has been confined to a wheelchair for more than 30 years, the result of injuries after an accident. He also suffers from a chronic blood disorder that possibly stemmed from exposure to Agent Orange while he was stationed at Fort Gordon, Ga., a test site for the defoliant.
But Simoneau continues to soldier on, making sure the men and women whom he does consider heroes receive the honors and benefits he thinks they deserve.
As the legislative chairman of the Maine Department of the American Legion, Simoneau has testified in both Washington, D.C., and in Augusta in support of legislation benefiting veterans.
Most recently, he helped raise funds to support the family of Army Sgt. Helaina Lake, a military police officer from Livermore Falls who was severely wounded last June while serving in Afghanistan.
In 2006, Simoneau spearheaded an effort to purchase flags for graves in veterans cemeteries in Springvale, Augusta and Caribou for Memorial Day.
Last May, nearly 400 volunteers placed more than 15,000 American flags.
Simoneau also worked to upgrade the World War II monument in Livermore Falls, his hometown. On Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day, two brass plaques listing the 726 men and women from Livermore and Livermore Falls who served in World War II will be dedicated.
"I was brought up to believe if somebody needed their driveway cleared, you shoveled snow," Simoneau said. "If they needed their lawn mowed, you mowed it."