Commander Craig Bailey of Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post No. 5 applauds those who braved the cold in November 2018 for the Veterans Day parade in Waterville. The American Legion is sponsoring a Veterans Day parade and ceremony Wednesday in downtown Waterville. Morning Sentinel file

WATERVILLE — Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post No. 5 is organizing a Veterans Day parade and ceremony for Wednesday in downtown Waterville, with officials asking that participants and spectators wear protective masks and socially distance because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The parade is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at The Elm at 21 College Ave.. It will then proceed south on Main Street and turn east on Common Street, where the ceremony is planned for Castonguay Square, according to Craig Bailey, commander of the local American Legion.

Bailey, who retired from the U.S. Army last year as a first sergeant, and former Waterville city councilor and state Rep. Thomas R.W. Longstaff, a veteran of the U.S. Marines and Legion member, are scheduled to speak on the steps of City Hall, as is a representative of the Forest J. Pare Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1285.

The VFW traditionally organizes a Memorial Day parade and the Legion a Veterans Day parade.

Bailey said Monday the Legion felt it important to hold the parade this year despite the pandemic, particularly because there were no Memorial Day or July 4 activities.

It is important, he said, to recognize veterans, alive or dead, who fought to protect the country. That includes those who made the ultimate sacrifice in all wars, he said.

Because of them, we have freedoms including the right to vote, free speech and the right to bear arms, according to Bailey, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Like with any society, it’s helping to honor those people and remember them, because if we don’t, we’ll  find we’re doomed to repeat history again,” he said. “We’re just ecstatic that we’re able to do it in the midst of COVID, and be safe.”

Bailey and Post 5 Adjutant General Ernie Paradis approached the Waterville City Council recently to say they planned to organize Veterans Day activities this year, and the Legion received a permit from the city to do so. Bailey said permit requirements are stricter this year.

He said veterans who are unable to walk will ride inside vehicles in the parade, which also is expected to include police and fire officials. Bailey said he did not reach out to marching bands because it would be impossible with the mask mandate for some members to play instruments.

He said spectators of the parade and ceremony should wear masks, and if they are not living in the same home, they should social distance on the sidewalks along the parade route and at Castonguay Square.

The event will be held rain or shine, according to Bailey.

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