CUMBERLAND – A Cumberland man with a passion for veterans’ causes is hoping to raise public awareness and write a book about the sacrifice of citizen soldiers and U.S. war veterans once he completes his college degree.
Chris Regan, 58, is currently pursuing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in military history at the University of Southern New Hampshire and expects to graduate in 2023, he said, adding that while he’s not a veteran himself, many of his relatives are.
“I am a defender of veterans’ rights,” Regan said. “I have worked extensively with WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Gulf Wars and Afghanistan veterans.”
While Regan was always all about military history, a cancer diagnosis five years ago changed his view on life, he said. “I became really passionate (about it).” He is now in remission, he said.
Regan has been involved with causes for many years including both Massachusetts and Rhode Island Honor Flights, the Society of Military Historians, and the 26th Yankee Division Living History Group in N.H. He’s a charter member of the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, he said, and is a part-time military historian for the American Heritage Museum in Hudson, Mass. As a freelance writer, he’s written many essays about all types of history and military history, and has traveled to many of the battlefields of U.S. Civil War, WWI, WWII, and the Cold War, he added.
Back in 2004, Regan became involved with Honor Flights, saying that a lot of World War II veterans were dying and he wanted to do something. He volunteered to be a chaperone, he said, and would escort veterans on flights to visit war memorials in Washington D.C. “I heard incredible stories,” he said, which he wants to write about. Among the veterans he traveled with were the late Anthony Bucci, of Cumberland, a WWII veteran; and the late Norm Feugere, of Lincoln, a Navy veteran who fought in the South Pacific.
His love of military history was sparked by his relatives having served in the U.S. Armed Forces, he said. After he arrived in the U.S. from Ireland in 1862, Regan said, his great-grandfather fought in the Civil War. Regan’s father, Joesph James Regan, was a WWII veteran who spoke only about certain parts of the war, he said, which piqued his son’s interest. “He couldn’t get into really speaking about it,” he said. “It was very emotional.”
“I wanted to join the military when I was a kid, but I never got a chance,” Regan said, noting that his then-undiagnosed dyslexia led to his failing all of the required tests.
He said while he’s upset that he didn’t get to serve his country by serving in the military, he hopes that he’s helping through his work and volunteerism, especially with veterans who are marginalized.
“I’m going to try to write a book as soon as I finish my degree,” Regan said, adding that the working title is “In the Steps of Giants.” His goal is to tell stories about his interactions with veterans over the years and how their stories affected his and other people’s lives.
Youth today, he said, may not be less patriotic than their predecessors but “I don’t think as many of them think about the sacrifices that (people in the military) commit.”
Regan and his wife, Lisa, have a 26-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old son, and Regan said his children inspired him to go back to school to pursue not only his bachelor’s degree but a master’s as well.
Regan worked for U.S. Nutrition Inc. out of Ronkonma , N.Y., for 29 years as eastern regional sales director but retired in 2017 when he was diagnosed with blood cancer. He serves as an assistant coach for youth football in Cumberland and LaSalle Academy, he said.
Citing a statistic that 22 veterans die each day by suicide, Regan said there are many stories that are untold that he wants to shed light on. He’s coached many local youth who went on to serve in the military, he said. “I don’t want them to be forgotten.”