HALLOWELL — About 150 people came out to honor the sons and daughters of Hallowell who died at war, as well as six others, whose hometowns are unknown, who were “adopted” by the local legion post.

Solemn Memorial Day ceremonies took place at the Civil War Monument and Veterans’ Park in Hallowell Cemetery, as well as beside the Kennebec River on the small city’s boardwalk. A wreath was tossed into the river in memory of those lost at sea, including six of the 266 U.S. sailors killed on board the USS Maine when it blew up in 1898 in Havana Harbor, and who were never claimed by their hometowns.

Goodrich-Caldwell American Legion Post 6 member Steve Mairs said the names of the six sailors are known, but for whatever reason, it is not known what town, city or state they were from.

“So this legion post, here in Hallowell, Maine, adopted those six souls,” Mairs said, before Marine Corps veteran Ernie McPherson tossed a wreath made of vine and lilac flowers weaved together into the water.

Earlier, at Veterans’ Park, after the Hall-Dale High School band played “God of our Fathers,” local comedian and Vietnam veteran Gary Crocker, in his Navy uniform, spoke emotionally about the sacrifices made at war. He recounted an incident in the late 1960s when he was on rest and relaxation from the war in the Philippines, sitting around a table with other troops when someone asked where they served. Crocker and two others answered they served on the USS Boston.

“When we said that, four guys stood up on the opposite side of the table and raised their glasses to us — we were drinking beer,” Crocker said. “They said, ‘Gentleman, thank you for being where you were, because if you weren’t there, we wouldn’t be here today.’ That made my whole trip to Southeast Asia worthwhile. It turns out they couldn’t call in air support that day, they were surrounded, and they were almost out of ammunition, and it happened the USS Boston was in the right position. Our gunners’ mates were good. They called in the coordinates and we eliminated the threat.”

His voice breaking, Crocker said he shared that story because it means so much to troops that their brothers came home, and a reminder that so many didn’t.

“Even in Vietnam, I knew people who were lost,” Crocker said to a rapt audience. “People came to our ship for emergency refuel for their swift boats, and never came back down that river. So I thank everybody for being here today, for taking a moment from your life. This is more than a day off, more than a barbecue. This is a chance to honor and consider what these men and women did for us, so we could be here today and do exactly what we’re doing.”

Wreaths were laid at both the Civil War Monument, which lists Hallowell residents who died in that war, and the Veterans’ Park at the opposite end of the cemetery, which lists all soldiers from Hallowell, living and deceased.

Rabbi Erica Asch, in the benediction at Veterans’ Park, reminded attendees that each of the names on those lists was an individual person, not just a number.

“Soldiers are not nameless minions to be deployed,” she said. “But people with identities. Stories. Hopes. And dreams. As we gather together to remember those who died defending this country, it is vital that we remember that each person is more than a number. As we remember their service we pray that all soldiers be able to return to the loving arms of their families and of a grateful country, safely, speedily and in good health. Because of the courage of those who serve today, and those who served in years past, may we all be privileged to know and savor the blessings of true peace and security.”

The Hall-Dale High School band played several numbers, both during the short parade to the site and in the cemetery, including “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “America the Beautiful,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and the national anthem.

Joan Morgan and Jean and Don Davenport played and sang “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” at the Civil War Monument, and Nancy McGinnis sang “God Bless America” at Veterans’ Park.

The Maine State Honor Guard fired off three volleys at each of the two cemetery ceremonies, followed each time by a solemn playing of “Taps.”

“Seeing everybody here today reflects the heart and soul of our community and how much we care to honor the people who have died in service to our country,” said City Councilor George Lapointe.

Hallowell’s Memorial Day observances were among several in the central Maine area Monday.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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Twitter: @kedwardskj