SKOWHEGAN — Men and women — past and present members of American armed forces — remembered the nation’s fallen heroes Monday in towns all across Maine and the United States with Memorial Day parades and solemn ceremonies.

In Skowhegan, there were readings of the Gettysburg Address by Deb Tanner; John McCrae’s “In Flanders Field” read by Ann Spaulding; and a poem written by a Florida high school senior, Kelly Strong, in 1981, titled “Freedom is not Free” about a young Marine still bright with the promise of the future.

“I thought… how many men like him, had fallen through the years?” the poem reads, as recited by Susan Horsman, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and the Maine Army National Guard.

“How many died on foreign soil,” the poem continues. “How many mothers’ tears?”

Horsman said Memorial Day is not just a holiday and the start of summer, with grilling and family gatherings, but rather it is a day to remember all of the men and women who died defending freedom.

“It is a day to give thanks for the valor and bravery of those who are no longer with us,” Horsman told the assembled crowd at Skowhegan’s Veterans’ Park next to the Town Office building and Opera House. “It’s a day to remember the glory of our nation and America’s children, who all rest in our cemeteries.”

Horsman said Memorial Day originally was called Decoration Day, a time to place flowers on the graves of Civil War soldiers who died in battle far from home. After World War I, the day was expanded to honor all fallen veterans of American wars. She remembered the lives of all Americans who died from Iwo Jima and the Battle of the Bulge to Korea, Vietnam and Kent State University.

“It was not a popular war for many,” she said of Vietnam. “But then, what wars should be popular. But the soldiers fought for the same reasons, for the freedoms and liberties of others.”

Memorial Day services began Monday with a parade in Skowhegan down Madison Avenue to Water Street and the veterans park. Rev. Mark Tanner of the Federated Church led the ceremonies, assisted by American Legion Post 16 commander and Skowhegan Selectman Steve Spaulding. The parade’s grand marshal was Roberta Knowles, longtime supporter of the event and wife of the late Royce Knowles, who organized Memorial Day events for decades.

Leading the parade was Skowhegan Police Chief Ted Blais with Town Manager Christine Almand. The Skowhegan Area High School Band played a rousing medley of armed forces tunes all along the route.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367 | [email protected] | Twitter: @Doug_Harlow