San Pao hates tributes, but about a month ago he realized he had to organize one. It’s not that he felt obligated to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of his friend and fellow soldier, Spc. Christopher Gelineau, who was killed in Iraq on April 20, 2004.
It was the way people were talking about him that prompted Pao to act.
“I noticed people were bottling it up,” he said, noting the stutters and quivering voices that accompanied the mention of Gelineau’s name.
On Friday, members of the 133rd Engineer Battalion of the Maine Army National Guard, their friends and family, and students and faculty from the University of Southern Maine came together in a room in the Wishcamper Center on USM’s Portland campus for what Pao had billed as a tribute and community gathering – and what became a much-needed support group.