BANGOR, Maine — Staff Sgt. Patrick Skall of the Maine Air National Guard was held by his mom and saluted by veterans, from as far back as World War II, as they walked by during the Bangor Veterans Day parade on Wednesday.
Some gave her hugs as well.
“To have World War II veterans and all the Vietnam veterans, that nobody thanked, salute my son … it means so much,” said Mary Drew, Skall’s mother, who is from Orono.
Her son, who is in Baghdad fighting in the war in Iraq, nonetheless stood with her as a life-size foam board image in uniform during the parade. Alongside was Drew’s husband, Phil Drew.
Skall was an Orono Red Riots soccer player, she said, and “now he’s on a much bigger team — a team that spans the generations” and includes veterans from every era.
United States veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo, and those who have or are now serving stateside and in Afghanistan and Iraq, were honored during the parade.
As the groups started to march down Wilson Street in Brewer at 10 a.m., two girls, Makayla Quimby, 11, of Eddington and Katheryn Black, 9, of Brewer, held a sign they made that stated, “Thank You Veterans.”
Maine Army National Guard member Michelle Michaud, a mechanic for the 1136th Transportation Co., which is set to deploy to Afghanistan in March, marched past the girls with the Global War on Terrorism Veterans.
Michaud already has done one yearlong tour in Iraq with the 152nd Maintenance Company. She said she was honored to march in the parade with her fellow soldiers, current and past.
“It’s kind of a family — a military family,” she said.
Before the parade started, Vietnam veterans David Boyvin of Bangor and Ralph Eastman of Guilford stood off to the side of the gathering area.
Boyvin said he has walked in six Veterans Day parades and originally came to see if he would run into some of his old Navy buddies. He didn’t, but over the years new friendships have been created.
“It’s a good chance to get together and, more so, to honor the people who aren’t here,” he said.
Eastman, who served in the Army for 23 years with two years in Vietnam, added that many veterans who served stateside don’t feel like they contributed or should be honored, but they should.
“The guys who didn’t go over there deserve just as much respect as the guys that did,” he said. “Without their support” the troops serving overseas would not have been able to do their jobs.
For some Vietnam veterans walking along the Bangor parade route, the welcoming applause and warm smiles from onlookers who lined the streets to downtown provided a true homecoming, said Wayne Cartier of Orrington.
Cartier, who served in the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon with the U.S. Air Force during the war, walked in his first Veterans Day parade in 1984, when “only a handful” of Vietnam veterans participated. This year, about 100 walked the route.
He said area veterans should thank Galen Cole, a World War II veteran and founder of the Cole Land Transportation Museum, for his efforts to honor all veterans.
“He’s like the godfather of veterans for the middle of Maine,” Cartier said.
In addition to the military veterans, the parade included high school marching bands, area Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, other veterans groups, the 195th Army Band, Maine State Honor Guard and part of the Air National Guard 101st Refueling Wing. An Air National Guard KC-135 tanker and helicopters from the Army National Guard conducted a flyover during the parade.
A 21-gun salute was given by the Bangor High Junior ROTC, followed by a haunting rendition of taps.
The people of all ages lined the parade route and thanked the former and current soldiers by waving flags and applauding as they passed, and taking off their hats and standing with their hands over their hearts as the national anthem and taps were played.
Gov. John Baldacci and Bangor Councilor Gerry Palmer gave short speeches honoring the veterans, service members who are now serving, and the Maine Trooper Greeters, who for the past decade have welcomed home or sent off every military plane that comes through Bangor.
World War II veteran Dick Goodie of Westbrook stood with his camera near the bus station to get photos of the parade as it turned down Main Street in Bangor. He said he wasn’t marching because he is writing a book.
At the front of the parade were about 40 World War II veterans and 55 or so Korean War veterans. A green WWII Jeep followed closely, chiming the Cole museum’s Freedom Bell, a World War II church bell mounted on a trailer.
In the WWII group were, as always, Navy veterans Barbara and Frank Jewell of Hampden, and Army veteran Charlie Colburn, 87, of Bangor.
“It just makes me feel proud at my age to be able to” help lead the parade, Colburn said.
He said veterans from WWII “never talk very much” about their wartime experiences, “but they were so glad to be back in the United States” after the war.
“We’re so proud to be standing here,” Colburn said. “It’s wonderful.”
All soldiers who serve this country create a brotherhood through their experiences that should not be forgotten when they are discharged, Drew said.
“It’s a team and they are going to stand by their side and so they know they’re not alone,” she said. “I hope my son gets involved in a veterans group [when he returns to Maine]. They know how to support each other.”