USET Honors Wabanaki Veterans During Opening of Meeting

USET Release

The 2014 USET Semi-Annual Meeting opened with an honoring ceremony of several tribal citizens of the Wabanaki Tribes (Maine) who served in the United States armed forces.

During the opening ceremonies, USET honored David Francis (Passamaquoddy Tribe – Pleasant Point), Henry John Bear (Houlton Band of Maliseet) on behalf of his Tribe’s veterans, Charles Norman Shay (Penobscot Indian Nation), and John Stevens (Passamaquoddy Tribe – Indian Township).

Francis is an 87-year-old veteran of World War II and still works full-time editing the Passamaquoddy Dictionary, and giving tours of the Wapohnahki Museum and Resource Center. Francis served his tribe as Governor from 1950-1952 and is a former member of tribal council, and director of the Comprehensive Employment Training Act program for the tribe. During his service in the armed forces he was in the signal corp. He noted in his biography that, “I served in the signal corp (in World War II) yet couldn’t vote for the ‘great white father’ until 1954.”

The Houlton Band of Maliseet made a decision not to honor one veteran. Instead they chose to make a presentation which honors all of its tribal citizens who served in the United States armed forces. Bear received the honor on behalf of all Houlton Band of Maliseet veterans. Bear is currently serving as the Maliseet Representative to the Maine Legislature. He was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard during the Vietnam War Era as a Telecommunications manager and a cryptographic code operator aboard three U.S. Coast guard high endurance cutters operating out of homeports in various areas around the country and world.

Shay was drafted into military service as a medical technician during WWII. During Shay’s service he landed on Omaha Beach in the front wave of D-Day and was later taken prisoner by the Germans in March 1945. He later served in the Korean Conflict in the U.S. Air Force where he earned a bronze star with two Oak Leaf Clusters. Shay retired from the armed forces as a Master Sergent. During the remainder of his working career he worked for the International Atomic Energy Agency, his family museum, and briefly as a limousine chauffer-guide.

Steven joined the U.S. Marine Corp during the Korean Conflict for several years before he returned to stateside service. In Korea he says he witnessed atrocities of war which caused children and families to starve, and thought how this reminded him of his home in Maine. Steven returned home to serve as tribal chief for 20 years and 20 years on tribal council where he worked to improve the social, economic, and health conditions of the Passamaquoddy. Steven is the grandfather of current Passamaquoddy Tribe – Indian Township Tribal Chief Joseph Socobasin. The blanket and honoring was accepted on his behalf by Passamaquoddy Tribal citizen and veteran Madonna Soctomah.

“It is our honor to pay tribute to our brave soldiers who have given all or part of their lives to secure our homelands and promote the peace of our nations. We know there are so many people we could honor. But, on this day, we make this honor to you as a sign of our loyalty, love, honor, respect, and thanksgiving for your service,” USET President Brian Patterson said to the honored veterans. Each veteran was introduced by their respective Tribal Chief.

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