One man's dedication, above and beyond, to those in veterans hospitals and homes

Winthrop, ME

By Frank Smimmo

This article has been drafted and put together hoping it will be read by a large number of Americans, to show them the sacrifice and dedication of one person. Said person is a member of American Legion Post 40, Winthrop, Maine. This person is known to a large number of residents of Winthrop He is a popular and sincere person, and extends himself to many people and in many various ways. Now that I've got your attention, let me describe him and his persona as exhibited to the world.
His name is Arthur Herbert Wells and he was born in the year 1942. Looking at that year, we see that it was just after the start of World War II, which began in December 1941. I touch upon this fact because it seems that unfortunately we're surrounded by wars; as his life progressed, so did the wars.
In the early 1950s we had the Korean War, which was first called a police action. That supposedly ended, and Korea was geographically divided with a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and was now known as North and South Korea. These divisions were independent of each other and so remain today.
In the early months of 1965, the United States sent 100,000 troops and got involved in the ground war in Vietnam.
Moving onward to 1967, the United States assisted South Korea in the cold war against North Korea in the DMZ. Also the Dominican Civil War was just ended - 1965 through 1966. The United States assisted Dominican loyalists. Brazil, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras.
Arthur, seeing all these worldly wars, decided to join the armed services of the United States. He then decided he wanted to join the Navy and enlisted in 1967. He signed up and served two years of active duty, which included part of 1967 into 1969.
During that time he was assigned to active duty in the Vietnam war zone aboard an ammunition supply ship, AE17 USS Great Sitkin, in 1968.
His next mission was assignment to AE12 USS Randell in 1969. Both ships supplied ammunition to the aircraft carrier Enterprise, the battleship New Jersey and other war ships in the war zone.
During his service he attained the rank of 3rd Class Boatswain Mate.
After finishing his tour of active duty he was assigned an additional four years in the Naval Reserve. Upon completion, this made a total of 6 years he spent with the U.S. naval service.
When he finished active duty with the Navy, he returned home and in 1969 joined The American Legion.
He then found employment at Carlton Woolen Mill in Winthrop and was assigned to the 2nd shift, which was the night shift. He became friendly with his supervisor Leopold (Leo) Sawtelle, who was not a veteran. In 1974 Leo mentioned to him that he made a weekly trip every Sunday to the Veterans Administration hospital (VA) at Togus, Maine. He went and assisted the handicapped and medically recovering veterans. Arthur became interested in what he heard and told Leo that he would start going with him on Sundays. Thus it began, and it was an every-Sunday thing with both of them going to the VA. They would arrive at the VA at 9 a.m. and leave at 1 p.m.. It was a 30-minute and 18-mile drive from Winthrop to the VA, and the same home, every week. This brought the total of time donated to 5 hours a week.
While at the VA they would each take three handicapped wheelchair riding veterans from the nursing home ward to the cafeteria at 9 a.m. for coffee and donuts, and upon completion take them to Protestant church services on the grounds from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and then back to their wards upon completion. They would then go to different wards and talk to and cheer up the sick, ailing, recovering and other veterans who needed a boost in life.
These joint trips and visits to the VA for Arthur and Leo lasted until 1994, when Leo began losing his sight and could no longer make said trips. Being the man he was, Arthur continued the journeys on his own.
Among other things, they would visit VA-hospitalized veterans and could do so at their leisure. These bedridden vets were very happy to have someone to converse with . Sometime around 1989, the visiting privilege was ended. The VA set up the hospitals as being under quarantine and off limits. They were still able to visit other sections of the VA hospitals, which they did.
In 2012 the VA established and allowed televising the church services from VA grounds to all the wards on Sunday mornings. This became Arthur's duty: running the cameras. He did this for a number of years.
Another service Arthur recalled was special services they would do for the veterans, one being on Memorial Day and others on military holidays. They would also assist at the Christmas party. Each year afghans (clothing) were made by volunteers, and Arthur would see that these were given to the veterans to wear and keep when they ventured out into the winter cold.
Speaking of winter cold, the state of Maine is in the upper northeast quadrant of the United States and the winters are very cold and snow-ridden. When you stop and think about that you ask yourself, how has he managed to make a Sunday trip, 52 weeks out of the year, with those weather conditions? It has taken much dedication and perseverance to continue doing this, and he has enjoyed the trip.
In the title of this article, "veterans homes" are mentioned. There are a number of these homes located within the state as well as throughout the United States. The nearest vets home to Togus is about 5 miles west. If there were any veterans he knew from Winthrop, or anywhere for that matter, Arthur would always stop there on his way home from Togus. Again, these visits encompassed another two-hour time period or longer in which Arthur felt good raising the veterans' spirits and boosting their morale.
As if he had nothing else to do, he ran for post commander, and was elected and served in that position for three years, from 1984 through 1986.
To add to his idle hours, he has been very active in all his years of membership in the Legion. He spent 25 of those years as Post 40 chaplain.
To help enlighten the average person, Arthur made these weekly trips for 44 years. Counting just Sundays and broken down into the number of days, we have 2,288 days he donated in that time period. Now if we count the hours as per that time, it comes to 11,440 hours. Now that's a lot of time, which he considers well-spent.
The question in many people's minds was posed, and he was asked why he did it. His response follows. Quoting him, "I have done it for the vets and their mental stability. I felt it was a good deed, and being a vet myself, it was my responsibility to help them make it."
In lieu of this short synopsis, I and many members of Post 40, including the Auxiliary, Sons and Riders, all concur with the goodness of Arthur's charitable time given to the many veterans of this great country.
God bless you, Arthur, and the veterans, and God bless America.

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