AUGUSTA — The state’s highest-ranking military official plans to go to Old Fort Western on Memorial Day to designate Augusta formally as a military-friendly community.

Mayor David Rollins said the designation has both practical and emotional significance for members of the military and their families.

The practical significance is businesses in the city will be asked to — and more than two dozen in Augusta already do — give discounts to members of the armed forces and/or preference in filling job vacancies with veterans.

The emotional significance may be harder to define, Rollins said, but it is important.

“You are formalizing the idea we want to be respectful and friendly to all our veterans, and their families, in honoring the fact they put themselves in harm’s way for us, and to welcome them home, and recognize the problems they may have,” Rollins said. “It’s saying, ‘Hey, we care about you. We know you may have trouble with PTSD, that there are homeless vets.’ I think it’s a hug and reaching out to say, ‘What can we do to help?’ That we care, saying that formally, as a community.”

Brig. Gen. Douglas Farnham, leader of the Maine National Guard and commissioner of the state Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, and Rollins are expected to sign a “community covenant” designating Augusta a military-friendly community Monday as part of Memorial Day activities.

The ceremony starts at 1 p.m. on the parade ground at Old Fort Western.

Maj. Norman Stickney, public affairs officer for the Maine National Guard, said the state of Maine signed a community covenant with the military in 2009, and a few other communities, such as Houlton and Lewiston, also have signed such pledges.

While the community pledges to support military members and their families, the military pledges to continue to support and defend the state and country during times of war and during disasters, and provide support to towns such as through community projects and events.

“By signing the covenant, the military is reaffirming its commitment to our communities and saying ‘thank you’ to the community for supporting those who have pledged their lives for the safety and security of our nation,” Stickney said in an email.

Entrance into Old Fort Western, which normally charges an admission fee, is free for the Memorial Day events.

The 15-piece 195th Army Band will play, as will the Liberty String Band, with music to include the national anthem, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “God Bless America” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

John Phillips Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” made its debut at the former Augusta City Hall building, which is across Cony Street from Old Fort Western, when it hosted Sousa’s first performance of the famous song in 1897.

Historical interpreters in the Daniel Savage Company also will participate in the event, by reading George Washington’s prayer for his country, reading the muster roll call of soldiers in the Revolutionary War from this area, and raising the colors.

Ross Cunningham, president of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, a former Navy officer, will be master of ceremonies.

Pat Eisenhart, commander of Fitzgerald Cummings American Legion Post 2 in Augusta and a retired Coast Guard commander, will speak in recognition of prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action.

The event was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. with the intention of not conflicting with the Hallowell Memorial Day parade, which begins at 9:45 a.m. Rollins said organizers of both events would love it if people from Augusta were to go to the Hallowell parade in the morning, then come, with people from Hallowell, to Augusta for the events at the fort.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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