A pair of Veterans Day events in Skowhegan and Waterville highlighted holiday observances Friday, as Americans looked to the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, which marked the exact time when the a peace agreement took effect on Armistice Day in 1918, ending the hostilities of World War I.

In Waterville, a parade featuring veterans, families and firetrucks started at 11 a.m. at the American Legion post building off College Avenue and proceeded to downtown Main Street, then returning to the legion building.

Meanwhile, an observance of the 10th anniversary of Veterans Memorial Park in Skowhegan started at 11 a.m. at the park next to the Municipal Building on Water Street. The ceremony opened with introductions and some lingering memories of the Vietnam era from the event organizer, Ambrose “Tom” McCarthy Jr.

Citing the election of Donald Trump as president this week, McCarthy said he hopes there will be renewed appreciation for returning soldiers nationwide, unlike the treatment Vietnam War veterans received when they came home.

“We have a new president,” said McCarthy, 73, himself a Vietnam era veteran. “I don’t know that he’s going to make America great, but maybe he can make veterans feel better. That would be a good job just to do that.”

McCarthy said in America today the majority is being controlled by the minority and if — as it was 45 years ago — some people are offended by Friday’s show of patriotism, then he invited them to leave the park and stand across the street.

“We don’t need it, because you offend us,” he said.

There was no show of protest Friday as there was during the Vietnam era.

Friday’s ceremony observed the 10th anniversary of the park with a rededication of all the monuments to war veterans both living and dead. The event featured invited guests, speeches and the release of balloons during the playing of taps by Randy Salisbury, in uniform, with the name of a veteran inside each balloon.

The National Anthem was sung in the cold, bitter wind of late morning by Melissa Kelly. The invocation was given by Rev. Mark Tanner of the Federated Church in Skowhegan.

Present for the ceremony were veterans of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and more recent conflicts in the Middle East.

“The work that they did truly allows us to be able to do what we’re doing here today, and it’s awesome,” Tanner said.

Ten years ago, McCarthy headed a committee to honor those veterans and all the other men and women who had served in the U.S. military. The committee established the Skowhegan Veterans Park with granite slabs and marble monuments etched with the names of people — living and dead — who had served in the armed services.

The park was installed in front of the original monuments placed to honor veterans of the Revolutionary and Civil wars and World War I.

A central brick walkway, lined with granite benches and flat granite stones with names — including McCarthy’s — leads to new monuments dedicated to veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Another monument was added for veterans of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Gulf War, and wars in Kosovo, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Original Memorial Park organizers Ann and Steve Spaulding were present Friday in Skowhegan to give plaques of recognition to McCarthy and fellow park volunteer Jodi Michaud for the work that Ann Spaulding said began with a $500 donation from VFW Post 3198 in 2001 and led to the grand opening of the new park in 2006. The final cost of monuments ended up being close to $250,000, raised in fund raisers and donations, with no tax dollars used for the project.

In her address, Ann Spaulding thanked all the veterans and their families both in Skowhegan and around the country for “serving this country and making us all feel safe every day; for giving their lives, their time and also to the families for allowing us to take them away from them.”

Spaulding noted that the new memorials were placed in front of the original stones, which had been set there in the 1920s.

Other speakers Friday for a crowd of about 60 people who braved the chilly wind included Peter Mills, president of the Maine Turnpike Authority; Lloyd Woods, past state commander of the American Legion; Maj. Susan Horseman, of the Skowhegan Madison Elks Club; and Tim Gallant, representing the office of U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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