Dionne to receive military honors 40 years after his passing
LILLE, Maine – Raymond Dionne of Grand Isle served his country during World War II, seeing action in the woods and fields of Europe. The potato farmer, who was good at math and smart enough to become an officer in U.S. Army, returned home after the war.
Passing away at a Togus health care facility in 1976, Dionne always thought of his military service with high regard and his daughter, Diana Dionne-Morang, said that at his passing he wanted a military service.
That, however was not an option at his funeral 40 years ago.
At the time of his death, Dionne had lived away from the St. John Valley for several years, and had not maintained his membership in the Madawaska American Legion Post.
At that time, the Legion declined to perform a military service because Dionne was no longer a member, Dionne-Morang said during a recent telephone conversation.
Since that time, the federal government has taken steps to ensure veterans are afforded such graveside services, even if it is years after they have passed away.
In 1999, the “Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act” was passed, which states that each eligible veteran shall be provided, at minimum, a two-person funeral honors detail, the playing of taps, and the folding and presentation of a U. S. flag to the family.
Thanks to these changes and his daughter’s efforts, a military service for Captain Raymond JB Dionne will take place at 1 p.m., Saturday, July 23, in the Mont Ste. Carmel Cemetery in Lille. The service will be followed by a dessert buffet at the Musée culturel du Mont-Carmel.
A few local veterans attended his funeral 40 years ago, DIonne-Morang said. However, this was a far cry from the formal military service her father wanted.
“It was important to him,” she said. “It was the only thing he ever wanted.”
Even a simple military funeral can be a powerful experience, said Dionne-Morang, who now lives in Gardiner. The soldiers in uniform, the flag presentation and the playing of taps often affect those at the service who are not related to the deceased.
It can also be a learning experience for local scouting groups or others interested in the country’s military or civics.
Dionne-Morang said anyone who is interested may attend the services. Showing respect for veterans is always welcomed, she added. During her 16 years as a school teacher, Dionne-Morang said she has often invited military personnel to visit her classroom.
A few years ago a friend suggested she look into arranging an official graveside military service for her father. Since the law passed in 1999, she could apply on her father’s behalf.
Upon learning that she had been approved, Dionne-Morang made arrangements with the National Guard, who offered to come to Lille for the service. The process to be approved for the military service for her father went smoothly, she said, and she encourages others to look into it.
Dionne-Morang said she also received “a wonderful email” from the commander of the Van Buren American Legion post, who offered to provide a military chaplain to preside at the graveside service.
“One of my former students, Chad Merrill from the Maine National Guard, is currently serving in the Maine Military Funeral Honors program and will be performing the honors,” said Dionne-Morang.
Dionne-Morang said that after her father returned home from military service, most farm hands referred to him as “the Captain.”
“He was drafted from the farm,” she said.
Between his enlistment in 1941 and his discharge in 1946, Dionne would go on to serve in Europe in WWII and then in occupied Germany after the war, eventually earning the rank of Captain. That was no small feat for a farmer’s son who never graduated high school, his daughter said.
Dionne’s knack for math made him an ideal artillery officer, his daughter said. Following his graduation from officer candidate school, with a rank of Lieutenant, Dionne would eventually be field promoted to Captain.
The military was her father’s “anchor,” DIionne-Morang said.
“He saw his military service as his only real success,” she said. “He absolutely loved the military.”
Although his preference was to make a career out of the military, Dionne returned home to help on the family farm. Dionne-Morang said what followed was a string of bad luck and family issues that left her father missing his comrades and frustrated with trying to make a living doing something he did not have his heart in.
As one of the middle children among 12 brothers and sisters, Dionne felt a responsibility to help his younger siblings at the time. His older siblings had started their own families and the younger ones could not run the farm, his daughter said.
His service in the Army and earning the rank of Captain were two things that Dionne always held close to his heart and of which he was very proud, said Dionne-Morang.
To be buried without any military service was disappointing to the family.
As part of the U.S. Army’s 87th Infantry Division, the “Golden Acorn,” Dionne grew close to his fellow soldiers during their time together in WWII. Shorty after the end of hostilities, the men reunited and shared stories, creating a book of their experiences, Dionne’s daughter said.
Dionne-Morang still has an original copy of “335 FAB, Battle of Germany,” which refers to her father’s field artillery battalion destination. It was published in Germany in 1945.
The thoughts of what Dionne’s life might have been like had he stayed in the military still cross his daughter’s mind. However, Dionne-Morang said she is happy that her father will finally be receiving the military funeral service he had always wanted.
It means a lot to her, even 40 years later, she said.
To arrange military funeral honors, family members can start by contacting their local funeral home director. In Maine, information about the military honors program may be found at www.funeralhonors.org/. The U.S. Department of Defense military funeral honors Web site is located at www.dmdc.osd.mil/mfh/.