RICHMOND — Larry Srock appreciates the recognition he and other veterans receive for their service, especially when he remembers what it was like to come home from Vietnam.
“We didn’t have any honor at all when we came back from Vietnam,” he said Saturday during a lunch for veterans at the Golden Oldies Senior Center on Front Street in Richmond.
Srock, 78, of Richmond, was a Navy Seabee and worked in a construction battalion. He served 24 years in the military, which included two tours in Vietnam and service in Cuba during the Korean War.
About 25 people gathered in the corner room of the senior center to enjoy a free lunch of braised beef, carrots, mashed potatoes and apple crisp. It’s the fourth year of the luncheon, which is open to all veterans and their spouses, said Bette Horning, senior center director.
“Everybody should be honoring the veterans, and this is how we do it,” she said. “It shows we are grateful for what they have done.”
She said attendance was down this year, noting that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans don’t seem as eager to participate, and that many World War II veterans have died in recent years.
Across the country and in Maine, many people will observe Veterans Day today with ceremonies at cemeteries and memorials. Gov. Paul LePage and first lady Ann LePage plan to visit the VA Health Care Systems Maine — Togus and participate in a 2 p.m. dedication of the Battlefield Cross Monument at the Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery on Mount Vernon Road. Also, veterans and supporters will participate in the 13th Veterans Day Road March, a 21-mile march from Augusta to Winslow. The Maine Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Togus will host a Veterans Day Observance at 8 a.m. in front of the main hospital; the event is open to the public.
On Saturday, Mertie Wisda, 79, of Richmond, praised the senior center for setting aside time to honor veterans. Her husband, Bernard, is a Korean War veteran who decided to go hunting Saturday. She said while it’s important to honor veterans, she also hopes for peace.
“I pray that we’ll have peace,” she said. “I pray for peace for these young men. I wish we could end this in Afghanistan.”
Geoff Ragsdale, 74, of Richmond, served as a Navy medic from 1957 to 1979. He did three tours in Vietnam and served in many places across the United States. He remembers well the unrest of the 1960s, from race riots to war protests.
“It was a bad time all the way along the line for everybody,” he said.
Horning said the senior center plays an important role in the community and for seniors who live in nearby towns. From Wednesday game days to movie nights, it provides a place to socialize and to turn for help with medical, emotional or financial issues. For the Veterans Day meal, they got volunteer help from Ken Perry, a local chef, and Peter Walsh, a former state Department of Health and Human Services commissioner who played the accordion for musical entertainment.
“It’s something we enjoy doing,” Horning said. “It’s the least we can do.”
Susan Cover — 621-5643