It was all about veterans, both living and dead. It was also a chance to praise those still serving the country.
For the few hundred people who turned out at Veterans Day ceremonies in Waterville and Winslow, Friday was a day to thank veterans and their families for their sacrifices.
And for some, it was an opportunity to urge those in authority to ensure better care for veterans.
Waterville Mayor-elect Karen Heck said she was honored to have been included in a parade that marched through the downtown. She also stood with U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud during a ceremony at the U.S. Army tank off Front Street after the parade.
 Heck took a moment after the speeches to greet people and to issue one of her first political messages since being elected mayor Tuesday.
“I am saddened and appalled at the gap between our words and our actions when it comes to actually taking care of veterans,” Heck said. “They are coming home homeless, seeing long lines of waiting for mental health services, they are without jobs and we’re having trouble getting the Congress to tax millionaires. If we truly want to honor veterans, we will be demanding people pay their fair share and fund the kinds of services we promised young men and women when they signed up to risk their lives for us.”
About 200 people listened to American Legion officials, Michaud and a representative for U.S. Rep. Olympia Snowe praise veterans, without whose sacrifices, they said, the country would not be what it is today.
“The debt we owe them is immeasurable,” Michaud said.
Michaud also honored men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We pray for their safety and we hope they return home to their loved ones as soon as possible,” he said.
Veterans, Michaud noted, deserve the best possible care the country can provide. Michaud, a Democrat,  and Heck, who is unenrolled, marched side-by-side in the parade, which included police, firefighters, Girls and Boys Scouts, Cub Scouts, R.B. Hall Band, Waterville Senior High School Band, Delta Ambulance, Oakland Lions Club and Winslow High School musicians.
Joshua Medeiros, 9, of Cub Scouts Pack 471 of Fairfield, Benton and Clinton, said he was marching in the parade to thank veterans.
“My Pepe is a veteran,” he said of his great grandfather, Edward Harvey, 72.
As the Waterville ceremonies were wrapping up, a group of veterans, soldiers and others marched along U.S. Route 201 into Winslow from Augusta, where they had begun the 21-mile trip in honor of veterans.
 What had started as a chilly, windy Friday morning turned cold, raw and rainy by early afternoon as the marchers hiked up Bay Street in Winslow and crossed the railroad tracks by the Ticonic Bridge. They continued on Benton Avenue, turned on Roderick Road and stopped at Winslow Memorial Park.
About 100 people of all ages waited in the cold with umbrellas and little American flags to greet the marchers.
One of the first to arrive was Sgt. Andrei Mellitis, a Maine Army National Guard recruiter who works out of Caribou.
Visibly limping, Mellitis said he marched from Augusta to just across the Winslow line where he had to stop because of trouble he was experiencing from a previous running injury.
But he said it was important he take part in the march.
“It’s kind of paying tribute to the group before me — the soldiers out in the field,” he said.
Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty led the  ceremony, urging people to applaud veterans of various wars and conflicts, and those now serving.
He also thanked their families.
“We couldn’t do it without you,” he said.
Winslow resident Susan Morissette was among those who spoke. She said having veterans present Friday was a gift.
“Thank you for all you do, day in and day out,” she said.
Morissette’s son, Josh Morissette, 13, was holding a red, white and blue sign that said, “Winslow Junior High School Salutes Our Veterans.”
The eighth-grader said veterans risk their lives and some have done more than that — they literally gave their lives.
“I think there’s not enough people honoring veterans,” he said. “Everyone should take part in it. It’s the least we could do.”
As the ceremony ended and people hurried into their cars to get warm, 90-year-old World War II veteran Ervin Tyler started walking home alone across the expansive veterans memorial plaza.
Clutching a small bag of cookies someone had given him, Tyler said he was in the U.S. Army infantry during the war, where he served in France and Germany.
The only World War II veteran at Friday’s ceremony, he said he was honored to have been recognized.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I feel kind of good about it. I wish there were more (World War II veterans).”
He pointed to a brick in the plaza bearing his uncle, William Tyler’s, name.
“He lived to be two days shy of 105,” he said. “He was in the Navy.”
Tyler said  he often walks along the plaza, looking at names — including his own.
“It’s a nice memorial,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247
[email protected]

 


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