2018-07-19 / Front Page

Always on patrol

Veterans, he salutes you
By Abigail Worthing Staff Writer


Korean War veteran and Biddeford resident Norman Boissonnault walks about four miles every day along West Street, saluting vehicles with veteran license plates as a token of his gratitude to his fellow former servicemen. (Abigail Worthing photo) Korean War veteran and Biddeford resident Norman Boissonnault walks about four miles every day along West Street, saluting vehicles with veteran license plates as a token of his gratitude to his fellow former servicemen. (Abigail Worthing photo) BIDDEFORD – Every day, Norman Boissonnault walks about 4 miles, starting down West Street and continuing along side streets and through St. Joseph’s Cemetery. He dons sunglasses and carries his water bottle. To most, he’s just another man out on a walk, but to veterans, he offers daily thanks for their service with a salute.

On these walks Boissonnault looks for cars with veteran plates and when he spots one he stops and salutes. To him, it’s an offering of thanks, his way of expressing gratitude to those who served their country, the same way he did more than 60 years ago.

Boissonnault is 85, and with the exception of his time in the Air Force, he has lived within a few miles of West Street his whole life. After graduating from St. Louis High School he enlisted in the Air Force and served in the Korean War.

“We left Korea on Monday morning, and on Friday morning the war ended,” Boissonnault said. “So we always joked that we ended the war.”

After the war, Boissonnault finished his service at McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey before returning to Biddeford in 1956. In 1960, he began working at Saco Defense testing machine guns, a position he held until his retirement.

“We were testing machine guns before they were sent off to Vietnam during the war, working six or seven days a week,” Boissonnault said. “We weren’t overseas, but we were serving here too.”

Boissonnault is a self-proclaimed expert at “walking and talking” and on a recent walk down West Street, turning onto Granite Street, he regaled with stories of growing up in Biddeford, his time in the service, his three children, and his beloved wife of almost 58 years, Aline.

“I met her in 1960 through my barber,” Boissonnault said. “I proposed after two and a half weeks, and she told me to wait a bit. So I proposed again after three weeks.”

On the walk he keeps a keen eye out for every veteran plate that passes, pausing conversation only to salute as they pass. He identifies some of them as his “regulars,” cars that pass him daily along his route, most of whom will honk when they see him.

“It always makes my day when someone salutes me or thanks me for my service. After all this time, I’ll sometimes still get misty,” Boissonnault said. “I like to walk, I like to talk and I want people to feel good. They deserve to be thanked.”

When he goes out with his wife, Boissonnault is equipped with handmade cards. He writes notes that read, “Bless you and thank you for your service” and leaves them in the windshields of vehicles with veteran plates.

“I see you every day, and I’m always touched by your salute,” said Biddeford resident and veteran Jason Litalien to Boissonnault. “You deserve recognition for what you do, and what it means to veterans like myself.”

Boissonnault himself was recently recognized for his contributions as a veteran, participating in an Honor Flight last month. Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization that offers an all-expenses trip for aging veterans to Washington, D.C., where they can see firsthand the monuments dedicated to their service. While preferential treatment is given to veterans of World War II and those with terminal illnesses, the organization recently included those from the Korean and Vietnam wars into the program. On the trip Boissonnault viewed the Korean War Memorial and others, and said he was treated to “only the best” while in the nation’s capitol.

“They really roll out the red carpet,” he said. “They give you a wheelchair, but I didn’t need it. I’m not old like those other guys.”

Boissonnault credits his long daily walks for his health and agility, and enjoys his interactions with other passersby in the neighborhood. People will wave as he goes past, and veterans who are accustomed to his salute will honk if coming from the opposite direction.

“I like people. I like to greet people with a smile,” said Boissonnault. “I don’t know if most of them even realize that I’m saluting them, but it doesn’t matter. It’s my way of saying thanks.”

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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