WATERVILLE — U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-2nd District, honored veterans, firefighters, police and emergency workers Sunday at a wreath-laying ceremony at St. Francis and Pine Grove cemeteries on Grove Street.

Michaud was invited to speak by Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post 5, which hosts the annual event to honor heroes from all walks of life.

“Without the sacrifices of these brave and selfless men and women, our country would not be what it is today,” Michaud said.

About 50 veterans, firefighters, police officers, Knights of Columbus, Elks and others turned out for the ceremony during which uniformed officials laid wreaths at stones representing their respective groups.

Event Chairman Charles Maroon, past commander of the Bourque-Lanigan Post, said that, with the 9/11 tragedies and the “dastardly act at the Boston Marathon,” first responders also were being recognized Sunday.

“We will add first responders to the list of heroes,” Maroon said.

Maroon, who will turn 90 on Friday, is a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force’s 5th Air Force. He said the wreath-laying ceremony started more than 20 years ago. Officials from both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars typically place 900 American flags at veterans’ graves in the Grove Street cemeteries every spring, he said.

The skies were blue and a cool breeze wafted through the cemeteries as participants and their families and friends listened to the Kennebec Valley Chordsmen sing the U.S. National Anthem, God Bless America and other patriotic songs.

Michaud, a ranking member of the Committee on Veterans Affairs who also serves on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said that as we reflect on the contributions of brave Americans, we also recognize those still serving overseas and those who have come home wounded.

“We must never forget those still in harm’s way,” he said.

Heroes and their families deserve to be recognized, he said. “They represent the best of all of us, and they’ve set examples for future generations of Americans to follow.”

It has been said often, but can never be said enough, that this country owes a great debt to men and women who risked their lives for our freedom, Michaud said.

Michaud, who has been to Iraq and Afghanistan many times, said those serving have been through a lot, and when they come home, they must not be forgotten.

“We must never have a situation we had with our Vietnam veterans,” he said.

A VFW honor guard performed a 21-gun salute. Maroon’s grandson, Sam Maroon, 23, an Eagle Scout, performed Taps.

VFW and American Legion auxiliaries and members of the Marine Corps League were on hand.

Kelley St. Jock, 38, of Waterville, watched the ceremonies from a lawn chair as her fiancee, Jonathan Garvey, 30, marched with other U.S. Army veterans who are members of the Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post 5.

“I think they did an excellent job,” St. Jock said of those who took part in the ceremony. “Not a lot of people recognize the veterans out there.”

A brunch was hosted at the American Legion hall on College Avenue after the event.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
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