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Veteran's Grave Maintenance Fund for Piscataquis County Unorganized Townships

Graveyard is located in Orneville, Maine, just south of Milo on Lyford Rd., Rt. 11 [Google Map]

The government issue, gray granite tombstone of Lauren L. Cowallis, a 23 year old Milo man and bombardier shot down on December 6, 1944, was placed on a concrete base that has not withstood 68 Maine seasons.

Before [Large image] After [Large Image]

Mainers are tough as anybody in February or August "Black Fly" season knows. The family fun and hard work goes on but the weather takes it's toll. That's life in Maine.

Mainers have honorably served in all our country's wars. Most return home to their family's vacationland and live out their lives in peace. Some die in battle yet still come home to rest in those same February and August weather conditions.

How much does a 26 in. x 11 in. x 7 in. piece of concrete mean to you? Not much, you say. What if that piece of concrete was a tombstone of a World War II airman killed in battle? Would it mean more? Of course it would.

Heading south from Milo on State Route 11, 2.4 miles on the left, Don Cote stopped by an old Orneville cemetery he's driven by for years. One of the 50 tombstones caught his eye. "Lauren L. Cowallis, Son of Winifred French, 558 Bomb Squadron, 387 Bomb Group, Sept. 1 1921, Dec 6, 1944. Killed In Action." Winifred French, his mother, died in 1974 and is buried next to him.

In November 2009, Mr. Cote's searched the Web for Mr. Cowallis's bomb group and squadron and found B26.com. It turned out Lauren Cowallis flew on a Martin B-26 Marauder. B26.com is dedicated to Marauder Men.

Cote's emailed the site, "I found the tombstone, photo attached, in a small graveyard in Orneville, Maine. I looked up the 558 Bomb Squadron and found b26.com. I thought you would like to know where one of your comrades is buried. I would also be very interested in knowing more about this young man."

Trevor Allen, b26.com's historian, answered with a brief description of what happened on December 6, 1944 and included the names of the six crewmen, only two survived, both were captured by the Germans. The war was over for this aircrew.

Mike Smith, founder of b26.com, looked up the two names in a Marauder Man directory. John Dragan, waist gunner. John Payne, tail gunner. One of them, John Payne, was listed with address and phone number. One call was made. After a brief introduction Mr. Payne said he never knew what happened to Lauren Cowallis. Payne knew Cowallis died because after jumping out of the spinning plane with his parachute open he watched the plane violently twist and spin down hard into the ground. On the December 6, 1944 mission [text], Smith's Uncle Bob Brockett was flying next to Cowallis's plane.

Brett Cowallis, Lauren's great nephew, wrote b26.com in 2008 asking for information about his Uncle. Brett's email address had changed and contact could not be made. More phone calls and letters sent out and Lauren's cousin, Robert Cowallis, was located in Bangor. This closes one chapter and opens the next.

Lauren L. Cowallis's government issue gray granite tombstone is on a crumbling slab of concrete. If the headstone had fallen forward on its face, he might not have been found so easily. The rest of his story would not have been told.

B26.com is collaborating with Milo Legion Post 41. A fund has been created for the strict purpose of repairing veteran's graves in Piscataquis County's unorganized townships. There are 19 organized towns and 90 unorganized townships in Piscataquis Country. The American Legion's District 14 covers Piscataquis County. Once again the citizens of Maine, led by men and women from District 14, Milo Post 41, are showing us that veterans will not be forgotten.

A call out to donate time, money or material to replace the base of Cowallis's tombstone. The 23 year old Milo man has been home for 68 years and we want his grave standing tall for a long time. He was buried in Orneville with other members of the Cowallis family. Piscataquis Monumental Company in Milo will replace the base of the tombstone for $750. Update: Now we need $15,000 to repair and maintain about 10 veteran's headstones in the cemetery.

There are many veteran's graves in Piscataquis County unorganized townships that need help. B26.com and Milo Legion Post 41 announce the Lauren L. Cowallis Veteran's Grave Maintenance Fund for Piscataquis County unorganized townships. Please send your tax deductible monetary donations to Camden National Bank, 53 Main Street, Milo, ME 04463-1128. Checks made to "Milo Legion Post 41, Lauren L. Cowallis Veteran’s Grave Maintenance Fund".

Additionally, b26.com shirts are available for purchase with all money raised going to the fund. Mark Styling donated a image to the cause - thanks Mark!

Select this link to buy t-shirts http://www.cafepress.com/martinb26marauder 

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How the event unfolded:

Rep. Paul Davis, hearing the story, submitted a Bill, “Resolve, To Establish a Stakeholder Group for the Development of a Plan for the Inventory and Proper Care of Veterans’ Graves” is currently within the committee process. On February 8th, 2012, the committee will hold a public hearing at 1:00 PM.

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In July/August 2011 I personally met the following people, presented the Cowallis grave problem and identified possible solutions.

1) Richard Graves at Elaine's Cafe, Milo. It was his idea to collaborate between my website b26.com and Milo Post 41. I am grateful for his help.

2) Brenda Kelley at Camden National Bank. Explored steps to establish a fund raising account. Legally I hit a wall and could not create an account because I am a one man show, not a 501 c3 non-profit.

3) Rep. Paul T. Davis, Sr. (R-Sangerville). Created a Bill to fund the repair of Veteran's graves in Maine's UTs. To be submitted Session 1.

4) Aide to State Treasurer, Bruce L. Poliquin. State Funds for grave repair

5) Martha Demeritt, Executive Assistant to Attorney General William J. Schneider. Very helpful. Listened to the problem and offered suggestions.

6) Marilyn K Tourtelotte, County Manager. Very helpful. Listened to the problem and offered suggestions.

7) Frederick Y. Trask, District 3, Piscataquis County Commissioner. Very helpful. Listened to the problem and offered suggestions.

8) Jeff Gahagan, Milo Town Manager. Very helpful. Listened to the problem and offered suggestions.

9) Susan Cerini, aide to Congressman Michaud. Very helpful. Listened to the problem and offered suggestions.

10) State Senate Legislative Aides to:

I met with Robert Caverly, Chris Cote, Keith Herrick and Diane Johanson. They are Senate Leaders legislative aides for Sen. Kevin Raye, Senate President; Sen. Jon Courtney, Majority Leader; Sen. Debra Plowman; Assistant Majority Leader. Very helpful. Listened to the problem and offered suggestions.

Status of Dec 6, 1944 aircrew:

Ardennes American Cemetery
1) Miller, Lewis C., Plot D Row 6 Grave 4. Radioman, turret gunner, from Pennsylvania
2) Winsor, Alexander Jr., Plot B Row 30 Grave 17. Pilot, from Massachusetts, spoke fluent French

Lorraine American Cemetery
3) Nulsey, Erskine L., Plot K Row 27 Grave 4. Co-Pilot, from Oklahoma

4) Mr. Lauren Cowallis was returned home and is buried in Orneville, Maine.

5) John Dragan, POW (location unknown)

6) John B. Payne, POW (Newport, TN). On January 18, 2012, John Payne received French Legion of Honor award http://newportplaintalk.com/story/36858

***

Official State of Maine update :

TESTIMONY OF
Senate President Kevin Raye
Before the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs
Presenting LD 1630,
Resolve, To Establish a Stakeholder Group for the Development of a Plan
for the Inventory and Proper Care of Veterans Graves
February 8, 2012

Chairman Farnham, Chairman Beaulieu and distinguished members of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, I am Senate President Kevin Raye, and I am here as the sponsor to present LD 1630, “Resolve, To Establish a Stakeholder Group of a Plan for the Inventory and Proper Care of Veterans Graves.”

I introduced this legislation in response to concerns that were brought to my attention by a citizen concerned about the condition of veterans graves in the Unorganized Territories. In the UT, this gentleman had visited the final resting place of a heroic B26 crew member who made the ultimate sacrifice in Europe during World War II, and was deeply disturbed to find this fallen hero s grave stone in a state of neglect and disrepair.

After consulting with officials of the American Legion, it became clear that this is a situation that warrants a thorough review. Every veteran deserves a final resting place that is honored by those of us who enjoy freedom as a result of their service to our nation and we, as a State, have an obligation to do what we can to ensure that happens.

That is the goal of my legislation.

By creating a stakeholder group to look at this issue more closely, this resolve will bring together concerned groups and individuals for a comprehensive examination of this troubling situation. It is clear in Title 30(A) that when a veteran s grave is in an ancient burying ground or a public burying ground, the municipality “shall keep in good condition and repair all graves, headstones, monuments or markers designating the burial place.”

We all have a stake in making certain that, likewise, we do all we can to ensure that the graves of our veterans in these types of burying grounds located in the UT are also properly honored. This stakeholder group will take an in-depth look at veterans graves across the state and make recommendations based on thoughtful and careful considerations. It is important to make clear that this task force is not designed to create cost for local government, but rather to uphold our commitment to those who sacrificed for all of us.

It has been said that one measure of a society is how it honors its dead. Certainly that is true and no more so than in how it honors those who have given their all in service to their fellow citizens and the ideals of democracy and freedom.

Maine has a proud military tradition, one that we must continue to honor and it is my hope that this legislation will earn your support and a unanimous ought to pass report so that We can better understand the issues involved and be prepared to take appropriate action.

Thank you.

Follow the Bill here : Resolve, To Establish a Stakeholder Group for the Development of a Plan for the Inventory and Proper Care of Veterans' Graves

UPDATE: The Bill became a law in the State of Maine

 

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