WINDHAM — Army veteran Anthony Webster and Town Councilor Jarrod Maxfield would like to see more purple parking spaces in Windham – and it’s not because they both went to Deering High School.
As a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Webster is hoping to recruit local businesses to set aside a parking space specifically for combat veterans. The effort is part of a national campaign providing specialized Purple Heart parking placards that reserve spaces for combat wounded veterans.
Maxfield mentioned the effort at a recent Windham Town Council meeting, and asked his high school classmate Webster, now a Windham resident, to come to the podium and explain the initiative.
Zak Sherman, the manager of Buck’s Naked BBQ in Windham, said that the business plans to add one of the Purple Heart parking spaces in the coming weeks.
Webster, 40, spoke with the Lakes Region Weekly about the Purple Heart parking project, his service and his work helping fellow veterans.
Q: How did you first get involved with the parking space initiative?
A: We’ve been trying to do a lot of things around here for veterans for a while now, and really haven’t been getting a lot of help. And the parking space thing came about because there’s an organization that does it. It’s a nationwide program for us, and it helps raise awareness. So, me and Justin Galipeau of Saco decided, well let’s try doing this … A parking space is just a small token of businesses’ appreciation of the sacrifices that Mainers have made.
Q: Besides Bucks Naked BBQ, are there other area businesses who are participating?
A: Nationally, Home Depot and Lowe’s and some of the big chains do (combat wounded) parking spaces. So we’re going to approach them, we’re going to approach Walmart here in the town … My goal here in Windham is to make it a Purple Heart Town, so that from any major roadway coming into Windham, the town can actually put a sign up and say we are a Purple Heart Town.
Q: What’s the Purple Heart organization that you’re involved with?
A: The Military Order of the Purple Heart. Basically, what we do is we help all veterans – you don’t have to have a Purple Heart (the military honor given to those killed or wounded in combat). You have to have a Purple Heart to be a member, but we help (all) veterans. Basically mine and Justin’s view on what we do is, that we believe in outdoor recreational therapies and programs. We feel the VA is not doing enough here in the state of Maine to partner with really good programs that are here to help our veterans.
So we sponsor trips like whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing … anything to get guys out of the house, back into some sort of social setting with other veterans to try to combat the PTSD and the suicide stuff – letting them know that you’re not alone and there are people here that are going through the same thing.
Q: Are the spaces for any combat veterans?
A: Yeah, we’d like them to have Purple Hearts, but as long as they have a veterans license plate, I don’t see an issue with it. As long as they served, it just recognizes that.
Q: What are the costs involved?
A: It’s a donation (from the business), and the average donation is $150-200. And what that does is it allows us to buy more signs, buy the paint, and pay for programs and services. All the money comes in and goes right back out to helping (veterans) enjoy the outdoors and enjoy the state.
Q: Can you speak about your personal service? Which branch did you serve in?
A: Army – I was in a recon unit, I was a 19 Delta, which is a cavalry scout. I served at Fort Riley, Kansas. I was a team leader on a SKT Team, and a team leader on the PSD – that’s the personal security detail for the colonel and the sergeant major. I was the sergeant major’s bodyguard. I served in Afghanistan. I was outside of Kandahar – which is known as RC South. I’ve been blown up six times, I have two Purple Hearts.
Q: Did you immediately get involved with this kind of (veterans advocacy) work? Did it take some time?
A: It took some time. To tell you the truth, I really didn’t leave my room for over a year … I spoke a different language than my friends. Not that they didn’t care about me or want to understand, it’s just that as much as they empathized with me, they just didn’t understand and it wasn’t their fault. I took my buddy Justin, who was in the Purple Heart, and it got me into the No Boundaries program here in the state, and that was really my turning point.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Army veteran and Windam resident Anthony Webster is hoping that local businesses will join an effort to set aside a parking space for combat veterans. Bucks Naked BBQ is in the process of adding one of the spaces.