Peter Crepeau cut an unmistakable profile in his black cowboy boots, green Army fatigues and a blue snap-back Vietnam Veteran hat.

As the Cumberland County sheriff’s color guard drew near, Crepeau paused midsentence, straightened to attention and raised his right hand in salute.

On this Memorial Day, Crepeau, 71, was among the scores of children, families and veterans – many waving flags and cheering – who lined Congress Street for Portland’s parade to honor the fallen soldiers and service members across the United States.

Crepeau, like many in uniform, said he remembers the friends he lost during the fight. His service in combat came in 1967 and in 1968 with the 1st Cavalry in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. Each year on Memorial Day, he thinks of the intractable cost of sending men and women to fight and die.

“I think about a lot of people,” said Crepeau, of South Portland. “I think of what a waste war is. I think it’s political. It still irks me to this day that Congress never considered it a war.”

But his sacrifice and sense of duty have never wavered, Crepeau said.

“When our country calls, we go as we are asked,” he said. “And I’d go again if they’d take me.”

The procession from Longfellow Square to Monument Square was accompanied by the Portland High School marching band and led by Grand Marshal Richard Cobb. Behind him were color guards and honor guards from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, Portland police and fire departments and numerous veterans groups, including the Harold T. Andrews Post 17 American Legion, which sponsored the parade.

Cobb, 60, said he fought in Desert Storm, the code name for the 1990-91 Gulf War, and retired from the Army in 1997. Being asked to lead the parade was an honor.

“It means that I can represent the military and stand up for the fallen comrades who have gone before us, and celebrate the freedom which is our gifted right,” he said.

Later, during brief remarks, Cobb thanked the public for its support, saying he was humbled by the honor.

He also offered some advice: “When you see a veteran, you walk up to him and look him straight in the eye and shake his hand and say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ ”

Mayor Ethan Strimling, who also gave remarks, urged the public to remember not only the veterans and service members who have died, but those who came back from duty.

“Many unfortunately are suffering, and many, unfortunately, we are not taking care of as well as we should,” Strimling said. “So I hope as you think about today and think about those we have lost who have fought for us to have our freedoms, you also think about those who are here who still need our help – whether that’s mental health services, whether that’s a shelter, whether that’s a job.”

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