2015-11-06 / Front Page

Honoring the ultimate sacrifice

Goldeneye Project aims to restore sailboat for use by families of Maine’s fallen
By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer


Dean Barron of Auburn, founder of the Maine Fallen Heroes Foundation, poses aboard the Goldeneye, a 45-foot sloop undergoing restoration by an army of foundation volunteers at Aspasia Marina in South Portland. He hopes to make it seaworthy by June 2015 so it can be used by families of the 95 Maine soldiers killed since Sept. 11, 2001. (Duke Harrington photo) Dean Barron of Auburn, founder of the Maine Fallen Heroes Foundation, poses aboard the Goldeneye, a 45-foot sloop undergoing restoration by an army of foundation volunteers at Aspasia Marina in South Portland. He hopes to make it seaworthy by June 2015 so it can be used by families of the 95 Maine soldiers killed since Sept. 11, 2001. (Duke Harrington photo) SOUTH PORTLAND — In a storage yard located across Front Street from Aspasia Marina in South Portland sits what, at first glance, appears to be a derelict ship.

The 45-foot-long sloop sits atop giant saw horses, its 65-foot carbon fiber mast sprawled along the ground at its side. With tall grass encroaching on every side, the sailboat almost looks abandoned. But on closer inspection, it becomes immediately evident the ship has seen recent, intensive care. The entire bow has been rebuilt and the hull has been repainted in patriotic hues of red, white and blue.


The Goldeneye, a 45-foot sloop once used as a training vessel at the Maine Maritime Academy, now sits outside the Aspasia Marina in South Portland, where volunteers with the Maine Fallen Heroes foundation are restoring it for use by families of the 95 Maine soldiers kills since 9/11. (Duke Harrington photo) The Goldeneye, a 45-foot sloop once used as a training vessel at the Maine Maritime Academy, now sits outside the Aspasia Marina in South Portland, where volunteers with the Maine Fallen Heroes foundation are restoring it for use by families of the 95 Maine soldiers kills since 9/11. (Duke Harrington photo) The color scheme is no accident.

The ship, named the Goldeneye, in undergoing restoration by the Maine Fallen Heroes Foundation, which hopes to make the vessel seaworthy by June. Once back in the water, the ship will be offered up for use in Casco Bay by the families and loved ones of Maine’s fallen heroes — the 95 members of the armed forced killed since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — as well as the many wounded warriors injured in the line of duty.

“Our community alone has lost five kids since 9/11. They should not be forgotten. Their families should not be forgotten,” said South Portland native Don Sargent, who has volunteered dozens of hours to helping bring the Goldeneye back to life.


The inside bow of the Goldeneye, a 45-foot sloop stored at Aspasia Marina in South Portland, shows the extensive repair work done over the past year. Although the sailboat, once used as a training vessel by the Maine Maritime Academy, has not been in the water since 2010, members of the Maine Fallen Heroes Foundation hope to make it seaworthy by next summer, so it can be used as a therapeutic instrument by the family members of Maine soldiers killed since 9/11. (Duke Harrington photo) The inside bow of the Goldeneye, a 45-foot sloop stored at Aspasia Marina in South Portland, shows the extensive repair work done over the past year. Although the sailboat, once used as a training vessel by the Maine Maritime Academy, has not been in the water since 2010, members of the Maine Fallen Heroes Foundation hope to make it seaworthy by next summer, so it can be used as a therapeutic instrument by the family members of Maine soldiers killed since 9/11. (Duke Harrington photo) “This boat, once underway, can allow these families to leave some of life’s stressors on shore,” he said. “It can allow multiple families to share experiences, share coping skills, share stories of their loved ones, to help each other heal, reflect, remember and be reassured that their family and their sacrifice has not been forgotten, nor will it ever be forgotten.”

The Goldeneye Project is the brainchild of Fallen Heroes Foundation founder Dean Barron of Auburn.

Barron’s son Joshua is one of the 95 fallen heroes, although he was not killed overseas. Instead, in what may be even more heartbreaking, his body was found off the grounds of his Arizona Marine base in March 2011, shot from behind in an irrigation canal, the victim of a murder that remains unsolved.

“So, not all of the 95 were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Barron said. “For example, two committed suicide after returning home. But the common thread is all have ties to Maine and all were on active duty in the military when they died.”

Following Johua’s death, Barron reached out to others who shared his experience. In addition to founding the Fallen Heroes Foundation, he helped organize the Run for the Fallen — an annual event that taken over by Barron’s foundation following this year’s race — and the Summit Project, which invites people to take stones baring the names of fallen soldiers to various Maine mountaintops for reflection on their sacrifices.

“There are so many things I’ve become involved in because of the death of my son,” he said.

“I do it because of the families on my back,” Barron said, referring to a Run for the Fallen t-shirt he was wearing at the time of a recent interview, which listed the names of the 95 fallen heroes. “Each of these families has been through exactly what I’ve been through. Each and every one of them needs to go through the same grieving and dealing type of thing I’ve been through. And not all of them have done that, even years later.”

And that’s how the Godeneye Project was born.

The Goldeneye was handcrafted in 1981 by Lee’s Boat Shop in Rockland and, for many years, served as a training vessel at Maine Maritime Academy. Classified as a cruiser/racer because of its narrow 11-foot width, the Goldenye has made several runs between New England and the Bahamas, both before and after its academy tenure.

In November 2014, Barron got the boat from the online trading site listia.com using only 320 of the 3,000 points given by the site when he signed up.

“So, I got it essentially for free. It was a real good deal, at least until my wife said, ‘What are you going to do with that?’” Barron recalled, with a laugh.

Barron admits when he first bought the boat he had no idea what he’d do with it. It was just too good a deal to pass up. But almost as soon as his wife asked what he’d do, the idea came to him — to use the boat as a sort of communal healing for the families of fallen soldiers.

“It’s a way for them to heal,” he said. “You get them on the boat, they can’t escape. They’re not going to go anywhere. They’re out on the ocean. They’ve got to talk. They’ve got to share.

“A lot of the families don’t take part in any of the events,” Barron said. “They don’t want anything to do with anything. They just want to get past it. This is a way to help them deal with their loss in a very private way, which many of them need.”

Since buying the boat, Barron, a web designer, has put nearly $20,000 of his own money into repairs and storage fees.

“I don’t care about the money. That’s not the problem. It’s about helping everyone else,” he said.

Barron’s outlay is on top of the many hundreds of hours of combined volunteer labor that’s gone into the project, including from family members of more than 30 of the 95 fallen.

“They hand sanded the whole hull, it was a ton of work,” Barron said.

Mike Peterson of Millinocket, who met Barron through the Summit Project, said many people have pitched in just because Barron is such a force of nature when it comes to honoring Maine’s military dead.

“Dean’s a great guy,” Peterson said. “He’s always doing things for others. He knows a lot of people and has a lot of great projects. People just like to help him because he’s a great guy who does great things. If dean called me up and said I need you tomorrow I’d go help him, because that’s just the way he is and how I feel about him.”

But even so, the Goldeneye Project is inspired, Peterson said.

“I think it’s going to be a great healing thing,” he said. “Once you get a group of people out on the water they are going to be a very captive audience. If they don’t want to talk about something there’s no place for them to run and hide. But they are going to be out there with others who are liked-minded, who want to open up, who want to talk about their loved ones. It can’t help but become a great healing process.”

Peterson and Sargent have both helped out, despite having little if any experience with boats. Still, there is a lot to do, for anyone willing to help.

“A lot of the things that Dean has had us do as volunteers include cleaning, sanding, painting and some of the minor things that need to be done,” Peterson said. “Really, anyone can help out. And that’s part of what makes this project so special, I think.

“Giving money to an organization is one thing, but giving your time is priceless,” Peterson said.

Meanwhile, Barron said he only hopes the ship, once in the water, can indeed bring solace to those who have yet to deal with their loss, or those who may need additional support.

“By getting these families out on the bay, in this sailboat, in a place that’s absolutely silent, except for the wind, they’ll almost have to choose,” Barron said. “They’ll have to talk to each other.

“We’re exclusive members of a club nobody wants to be a part of,” he said. “So, we have to share amongst each other.”

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