LEWISTON — Carl Sheline’s daughter was attending McMahon Elementary School when she brought home a project on the school’s namesake — Thomas McMahon.

Having recently moved here, Sheline did not know the significance of the McMahon name until he looked at his daughter’s project.

The Thomas J. McMahon Elementary School in Lewiston is named for a local war hero who was awarded the Medal of Honor in Vietnam. An Army medic, McMahon ran through intense enemy fire to rescue two wounded soldiers. Wounded by a mortar, McMahon tried to rescue a third comrade, but died in the attempt.

Sheline was so moved by McMahon’s selfless heroism that he visited his grave at Mt. Hope Cemetery. He left an American flag, flowers and took a photo of the gravesite.

That was the beginning of a project Sheline, office manager of Maple Way Dental Care — known as Center Street Dental when they embarked on the project a couple of years ago — and his staff undertook to honor the 34 Medal of Honor recipients buried in Maine.

“I don’t know why I have a passion for this,” Sheline said. “I don’t have any family members that have served nor have I served myself. But I do.”

The office project was a far-reaching quest. At each of the 34 gravesites, Sheline or another member of the staff would bring an American flag and flowers.

The gravesites stretch from Kittery in the south to Mars Hill in the north, a distance of 321 miles, and Eastport in the east to Baldwin in the west, 246 miles apart.

A photo of all 34 known gravesites of Medal of Honor recipients buried in Maine are posted in a Memorial Day photo gallery on the company’s Facebook page. The page also includes links to the Medal of Honor citations that describe the details of each recipient’s actions.

The project was a way to help people remember the purpose of Memorial Day.

“If you ask why we celebrate Memorial Day,” he said, “you will get a variety of answers.”

Three Medal of Honor recipients are buried in the Twin Cities. In addition to McMahon, George Leland is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Lewiston and Moses Hanscom is at Oak Hill Cemetery in Auburn.

Some of the more famous ones include Joshua Chamberlain in Brunswick and Gary Gordon in Lincoln, who died in Somalia saving a pilot’s life. His actions were featured in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.”

Sheline found it interesting how some communities honor their heroes. In Burnham, for example, the town center features a large monument honoring Clair Goodblood, who died in the Korean War. Goodblood was a one-man defensive line, allowing his fellow soldiers to withdraw to safer ground.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, “Goodblood’s body was found lying beside his gun and approximately 100 hostile dead lay in the wake of his field of fire.”

For those wishing to embark on their own journey to honor Maine’s Medal of Honor recipients, Sheline recommends doing a lot of research first. Mapping software proved invaluable, but finding the exact location of the gravesite is not always easy.


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