SKOWHEGAN — It’s been a decade since the Veterans’ Park next to Town Hall was created, said Ambrose “Tom” McCarthy, Jr., who led the effort to build it.

Standing in the park on Memorial Day while waiting for the annual ceremony to begin, he said he feels “very good” looking back on the project.

“We’re still building, we’re still growing. We still need more members,” McCarthy said.

Dozens of people came to the park on Water Street after watching the parade, which came down Madison Avenue.

State Rep. Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, was the keynote speaker at the park this year. He spoke about the true meaning of Memorial Day, which is a day to honor “those brave men and women” who served in the armed forces and “given their all since the shot heard ’round the world at Lexington and Concord.”

Stetkis also asked that people never forget “the cost of freedom,” which is not only a life cut short but also a loss of a spouse or a parent.

He ended with an epitaph from John Maxwell Edmonds that commemorated those who died at the Battle of Kohima in 1944: “For their tomorrow, we gave our today.”

Rev. Mark Tanner of the Skowhegan Federated Church also spoke, telling stories of people who faced war, including some who didn’t serve in the army.

He told a story of a man who came to the United States at 17 from Berlin, where he lived during bomb raids.

He talked about the father of a man in the community who fought in World War I and was captured and imprisoned by the Germans for three years.

He also told of a bugler in Augusta who knew of a woman in Paris who hid Jewish people during World War II.

“Stories like that leave a mark on every one of us,” Tanner said.

While Memorial Day is a time to think of veterans, Tanner said it’s also a time “to think of all of those men and women, too, who worked behind the scenes.”

“It was an effort of so many,” he said.

Among those who attended the ceremony in the park were commander Steven Spaulding and adjutant Bob Mercer of the American Legion Post 16, Town Manager Christine Almand, and Selectmen Darla Pickett and Betty Austin.

Karen Staples from Congressman Bruce Poliquin’s office also read a letter he wrote in lieu of attending the event.

The parade, which began at 10 a.m., included a few new features. The 195th Army band from Bangor led the music at the front of the parade for the first time in years, followed later by the Skowhegan Area High School band students.

Two Carrier 18-wheelers also took part in the parade, honking their horns for the kids on the sidewalks. The sides of one commemorated the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the sides of the other read “Support Our Troops.”

When Beatrice Powell, of Brighton, saw the trucks with memorial wreaths, she said she started to tear up.

Powell’s husband served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves for 34 years, she said, and events like this parade make her emotional. The small town feel is also special, she said, because those who are in the parade and those lining the streets know each other and will call out to each other.

“I’ve been to many parades, but there’s nothing like a small town parade,” she said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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