WATERVILLE — Wading between the crowd gathered for the city’s annual Veteran’s Day service Monday morning, an 8-year-old boy ran up to Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty and gave him a thank-you card he wrote for veterans.

Wyatt Smith, who stood less than half of Liberty’s height, held the card up to the sheriff, who was dressed in military fatigues. Wyatt said he and the other area Boy Scouts who made the cards learned “a veteran is someone who served our country.”

His troop had been giving them to other veterans in uniform during the parade.

“Thank you very much,” Liberty told Wyatt. “I’m going to put it right on my fridge,”

Liberty, who is a retired Army master sergeant, had just finished a 10-mile march and parade in observance of Veterans Day.

The annual march has been organized by Liberty for the past 14 years to pay tribute to soldiers who throughout the world who have marched into battle.

He said this year’s march was dedicated to Maine soldiers in the 133 Engineering Battalion, which was deployed in Afghanistan. Kennebec County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Pierce is currently serving with the battalion.

The march was shortened this year from 21 miles to 10 miles and went from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro, through Winslow and into Waterville.

About 40 veterans and supporters participated this year, which Liberty said was a better turn out than in previous years.

“It was a good march. I think there might have been more awareness this year,” he said, and referenced the new Maine Public Broadcasting documentary “A Matter of Duty: The Continuing War Against PTSD.” The documentary features Liberty and other Maine veterans grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kennebec County Sheriff’s Deputy Emily Childs, who served in the U.S. Army for six years, said she participated in the march with her 13-year-old son, Scott, to support other veterans and to support Liberty.

“He’s done so much for the veterans,” Childs said of Liberty. “He gave me a job when I got back. He organizes this march every year. He’s done so much.”

Sandra Oullette, 56, who owns Sidney Towing, said this was the first year she participated in the march.

“This march was great. More people ought to participate,” she said. “I just think it’s really important to honor our veterans.”

After the march, participants marched in a short Veterans Day parade in Waterville and participated in a memorial service at the American Legion U.S. Army tank nearby.

Ernie Paradis, commander of the Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post No. 5, addressed the crowd and said he is concerned about veterans commiting suicide rate for veterans.

Paradis said the legion can assist veterans in getting the government help they need by offering free help and connecting them to services.

The community, he said, also can help by encouraging veterans to get the help they need. Or people can simply thank a veteran for serving, he said.

“There are many tangible ways we can acknowledge their sacrifice,” he said. “Let us aways treat our 22 million veterans as the saviors of our county that they are, even when the guns are no longer shooting.”

Paradis said not all veterans have seen battle but all the men and women who served in the armed forces should be honored for their willingness to join the military, which he said sends a message to the world that America will defend itself.

“A common bond that (veterans) share is an oath in which they professed their willingness to die defending this nation,” he said. “Perhaps most significant in preserving this way of life are battles America does not have to fight because those who wish us harm slink away.”

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252 [email protected]