Plymouth’s Veterans Memorial
Linda Seavey has long recognized that the men and women of Plymouth have faithfully answered the Nation’s call to arms, ever since the Revolutionary War. She wants to make sure her grandchildren and future generations never forget it.
So when, during the 2017 Veterans Day ceremony, she saw the town’s Veterans Memorial fading away from years of wear and tear, Linda decided to answer a new call. Her plan was to replace the wooden structure with a granite memorial to honor everyone from the town who has served their country. In her role as the first selectman, Linda began the project, and as soon as she did, it was greeted with great enthusiasm and community support.
“If you could see what I saw that day,” said Linda, 70, who has served as a selectman for four years. The former wooden memorial had duct tape on top to hold it together. “It doesn’t show the honor that our veterans need and deserve.”
Linda pledged then that a new granite memorial would be dedicated in three years. Marine Corps veteran Kathy Condon was one of the people in attendance that day, and she decided to join forces with Linda Seavey, also feeling strongly that a new memorial was needed. “I was onboard and very excited from the moment she said it,” Kathy said.
Kathy, 66, is also a lifelong Plymouth resident who served in the Marine Corps from 1972 to 1982. She retired from the service as an E-7 Gunnery Sergeant. She trained Paris Island recruits in South Carolina for six years.
By knocking on doors and reaching out to as many community members as they could, the two women raised $25,000. “It was raised in a very short amount of time,” Linda recalled.
They wanted to dedicate the new granite memorial on the Fourth of July weekend this year, but the completion and ceremony were delayed. Linda said that the granite had been shipped from India, and it could not be offloaded from the cargo ship last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The dedication happened instead on September 19.
Now in place, the Veterans Memorial appropriately reflects the great sacrifices made by Plymouth residents. For example, 161 Plymouth men served in the Civil War at a time when the town’s population hovered around 900 people.
The town also has two Medal of Honor winners who served in two separate conflicts.
Andrew Tozier, a member of the 20th Maine, served with Joshua Chamberlain at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 and earned the Congressional Medal of Honor (CMH) for his bravery. Sgt. Donald Skidgel was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor after he was killed during the Vietnam War. Both soldiers also have a special CMH designation next to their names.
In the official citation authored by Chamberlain 30 years after Tozier distinguished himself at Little Round Top, Chamberlain wrote: “At the crisis of the engagement this soldier, a color bearer, stood alone in an advanced position, the regiment having been borne back, and defended his colors with musket and ammunition picked up at his feet.”
Tozier and other members of the 20th Maine were ordered to hold Little Round Top, and they fended off three assaults by Confederate troops. Chamberlain noted that Tozier’s gallantry to stand firm with the colors as bullets were fired all around him rallied his comrades to hold off the enemy. Tozier survived the Civil War, returned to Maine, and raised a family. He died in March 1910 and is buried in Litchfield Plains Cemetery.
Donald Skidgel also distinguished himself more than a hundred years later. Skidgel was 20 when he was a sergeant with the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division. His unit was ordered to provide security for a convoy on Sept. 14, 1969. Near Song Be in South Vietnam, the convoy came under enemy attack. Skidgel manned a machine gun on his vehicle and attempted to draw fire away from the convoy’s command group. As Skidgel’s vehicle made its way toward the command center, he was mortally wounded. The official report of Skidgel’s Congressional Medal of Honor citation is much more telling:
Sgt. Skidgel maneuvered off the road and began placing effective machinegun fire on the enemy automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade positions. After silencing at least one position, he ran with his machinegun across 60 meters of bullet-swept ground to another location from which he continued to rake enemy positions. Running low on ammunition, he returned to his vehicle over the same terrain. Moments later he was alerted that the command element was receiving intense automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenade and mortar fire. Although he knew the road was saturated with enemy fire, Sgt. Skidgel calmly mounted his vehicle and with his driver advanced toward the command group in an effort to draw the enemy fire onto himself. Despite the hostile fire concentrated on him, he succeeded in silencing several enemy positions with his machinegun. Moments later Sgt. Skidgel was knocked down onto the rear fender by an explosion of an enemy rocket-propelled grenade. Ignoring his extremely painful wounds, he staggered back to his feet and placed effective fire on several other enemy positions until he was mortally wounded by hostile small arms fire. His selfless actions enabled the command group to withdraw to a better position without casualties and inspired the rest of his fellow soldiers to gain fire superiority and defeat the enemy.
Skidgel’s heroism made such an impact that a weapons building at Fort Knox, Kentucky, is named after him, Linda said. Skidgel is buried in Sawyer Cemetery in Plymouth.
Tarry Thomas O’Reilly, another Plymouth son, also perished in Vietnam when his helicopter was shot down on Feb. 10, 1970, in Binh Dinh Province. Linda said she went to school with Terry and remembers him well.
Linda, whose father and grandfather also served as Plymouth selectmen, is very proud of all of the town’s veterans, and she wants to make sure they are never forgotten. “These men left their families and left their homes and risked everything.”
Kathy and Linda said that when the new granite memorial was dedicated in September, some of the town’s current veterans had tears streaming down their faces. “Veterans couldn’t thank us enough for what we had done,” Linda said. “The biggest fear that veterans have is not dying in a war,” Linda observed. “Their biggest fear is that their service will be forgotten.” Thanks to their efforts, Plymouth residents can pause and reflect on the service and sacrifices made by the 395 soldiers, sailors, and marines. Four of those veterans are Linda’s uncles who served in World War II.
With Maine residents and the nation continuing to avoid crowds that could prolong the COVID-19 pandemic, they may not be able to attend Veterans Day parades and ceremonies this November, to honor in person all those who have served or made the Ultimate Sacrifice. But thanks to Linda Seavey and Kathy Condon, current and future Plymouth residents can honor their brave sons and daughters with quiet reflection and tremendous pride.
As Linda expressed, “I want my grandkids to understand that everything we have wasn’t just given to us. It isn’t free. We had to fight for it.”
Local contractors had donated their time and materials to create the foundation, in the town of just over 1,400 residents. Linda and Kathy were so pleased with how this project came together, they have decided to launch another fundraising effort to restore the town’s Grange Hall that needs a new foundation. “It will get done,” Linda vows.