WATERVILLE — Craig Bailey, commander of Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post 5, looked out over a sea of faces that gathered at Veterans Memorial Park on Thursday and reflected on the opportunities people have in the U.S. that many don’t have elsewhere.

Americans are free to serve in the military, able to choose a profession and can enroll in almost any school they wish, he said, because of the sacrifices veterans have made for the country.

“Today we are celebrating those veterans that are here that have served in World War II, Korea, Cuba, Haiti, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the global war on terror …,” Bailey told the crowd.

The Veterans Day ceremony began at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the month and the 11th month of the year — the same time and date on which World War I ended in 1918.

Bailey urged the more than 100 people who attended to thank a veteran.

“That’s the best thing that you can do and it costs you nothing and it really, really impresses them that you noticed them and you thanked them for their service,” he said.


The gathering at the memorial park at the corner of Park and Elm streets normally follows a Veterans Day parade, but Bailey noted it was canceled this year due to road construction downtown.

James Gray, 6, left, and brother Jacob, 5, attended a Veterans Day ceremony Thursday at Veterans on Thursday. The brothers are Cub Scouts with Pack 445 in Winslow. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Felecia Gaulin with the Waterville Elks Lodge 905 noted that in 1917 the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks formed a committee to study what it could do for veterans returning from World War I.

“There was no veterans administration,” she told the gathering. “There were no veterans hospitals.”

The committee recommended the Elks create a fund for war relief work and help equip base hospitals to care for the sick and wounded on the battlefields of France, according to Gaulin.

The Elks the next year built a 700-bed hospital in Boston for maimed and wounded veterans and gave it to the war department, she said.

“This was the only veterans’ hospital that was donated by a private entity,” Gaulin said. “Also in 1918, the order built a 72-room community house to take care of the families visiting the 40,000 soldiers stationed at Camp Sherman, Ohio. After World War I, a war in which more than 70,000 of our members served and more than 1,000 of our members perished, our order made 40,000 rehabilitation, vocational and educational loans to disabled veterans without requiring any security. This was the genesis of the G.I. bill. The vast majority of loans were repaid.”


Gaulin and state Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville, an Elks member, described each branch of the military as veterans carried the flags representing them to the front of the crowd. A POW-MIA flag also was featured.

Pearley Lachance, chaplain for the local American Legion Post, offered opening and closing prayers. Bailey’s daughter, Abbey, 22, sang the national anthem. The crowd listened quietly as cars and trucks rumbled past Elm Street.

Joel Lavenson, 74, of Belgrade, a U.S. Army sergeant who served from 1966 to 1970, described Thursday’s ceremony as “wonderful and simple.”

“These are simple guys who are just trying to be honor-bound by remembering,” he said. “They’re speaking the names of as many veterans as they can to keep them alive. A man is not dead if they still speak his name.”

Represented Thursday were people with ties to the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force. Members of the Boy and Cub Scouts from Winslow were there, as were members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars.

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