SKOWHEGAN — Veterans, members of law enforcement and others of all ages turned out Monday for a Memorial Day parade followed by ceremonies at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Skowhegan to honor those who have died while serving in the United States military.

Rain that dampened most of the holiday weekend held off for the 10 a.m. parade, led by Skowhegan police Chief David Bucknam, who also spoke at the park.

A veteran, Bucknam shared thoughts about the American flag, which he said stands for liberty and justice.

“I look at everyone gathered today and I am honored to stand with you to celebrate and recognize our veterans and fallen heroes,” he said. “The flag of country being flown at half-mast honors those who lost their lives, but I can say it makes me proud to know that I, and many of you, have fought for and continue the legacy of the incredible men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us and future generations to live in freedom.”

The Memorial Day parade travels Monday along Madison Avenue in downtown Skowhegan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The Rev. Mark Tanner of Skowhegan Federated Church welcomed those who attended, offered prayers and honored World War II veteran Eugene Cullinane, 94, the parade’s grand marshal, who stood to be recognized and receive applause.

Skowhegan observed Memorial Day in 2019 with a parade and services, but did not do so last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tanner noted how the past 15 months had been difficult for everyone, and described Monday’s gatherings as blessings.

“It’s a joy for all of us to be together,” he said.

State Sen. Bradlee Farrin, R-Somerset, said more than a million men and women in the armed forces have died in wars.

“The numbers of our fallen heroes are not just statistics,” said Farrin, also a veteran. “They are real people with real families who lived in real communities. We can honor their sacrifice by remembering their families who have lost so much.

Brylee Rogers, 3, right, and brother, Braylen, 5, hold American flags Monday before participating in the Memorial Day parade in downtown Skowhegan. Braylen, a Cub Scout, marched with other Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts in the parade. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“Long after the battlefield guns have been silenced and the bombs stop exploding, the children of our fallen warriors will still be missing a parent. Spouses will be without their life partners. Parents will continue to grieve for their heroic sons and daughters that died way too early.”

 

Evelyn LaCroix, 13, took the microphone and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and, later, “God Bless America.”

Steve Spaulding, commander of the Peters-Shortier American Legion Post 16, welcomed attendees. His wife, Ann, president of the Legion Auxiliary, read the poem “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrae. Randy Salisbury then played taps.

Before delivering the benediction, Tanner asked people to go out and share love and hope, to listen to others in the days and months ahead and to remember loved ones who have served the country.

“Blessings to all of you,” he said. “Enjoy the day.”

The parade, organized by the Skowhegan Regional Chamber of Commerce, Skowhegan Federated Church and the American Legion, began at the intersection of Dyer Street and Madison Avenue. It proceeded down the avenue and through downtown, before stopping at the park next to the municipal building.

Along with Bucknam and Skowhegan police, parade participants included veterans, Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster, firetrucks from Skowhegan and Madison, Boy Scouts, Redington-Fairview General Hospital Emergency Medical Service and vehicles from the U.S. Army.

Lucia LaCroix, 10, pauses Monday at a monument bearing the names of World War II veterans during a dedication ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Skowhegan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Originally referred to as Decoration Day, Memorial Day began after the Civil War and was recognized as a federal holiday in 1971. The holiday falls annually on the last Monday in May.

Events elsewhere in central Maine included gatherings organized by the Tardif-Belanger American Legion Post 39 and Auxiliary of Madison, which held a ceremony at the Starks Town Office and Anson Memorial, before stopping by the Kennebec River in Anson to lay a wreath.

The group then held services at the Madison Public Library and Forest Hills Cemetery, before hosting a service in East Madison.

In Waterville, the Forest J. Pare Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1285 held a morning ceremony at Castonguay Square, next to City Hall, and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Two Cent Bridge at Head of Falls, along the Kennebec River.

Participants then headed to Veteran’s Memorial Park, at the corner of Elm and Park streets, for a ceremony, prayers and the playing of taps.

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