BANGOR, Maine — Virginia McIntosh on Monday sported her favorite colors proudly at the city’s annual Memorial Day parade.
On her head sat a ball cap adorned with red, white and blue sequins. Over a flag on her T-shirt were printed the words: “One Nation Under God.” McIntosh’s shoes were red- and blue-colored Oxfords. Even her leather fanny pack had the stars and stripes embossed on it.
McIntosh, 44, of Bangor attended the annual event with her 79-year-old mother, Joanne McIntosh of Bangor, and 5-year-old niece Deanne McLean of Veazie.
“It’s important to bring children to these events to show them what veterans have done for us and to teach them to be respectful of that,” Virginia McIntosh said.
The trio were just three of thousands who lined Main and Exchange streets to salute, applaud, cheer and honor the hundreds of veterans who walked by. Many others also wore clothes decorated with flags and other patriotic symbols and colors.
Marching bands, Boy and Girl Scout troops, and members of every branch of the U.S. armed forces followed them to Davenport Park, at the corner of Main and Cedar streets, where a short ceremony was held next to the Battleship Maine Monument.
Bangor police estimated between 4,000 and 5,000 people turned out for this year’s parade.
Earlier in the day at the Korean War memorial at Mount Hope Cemetery, a family of veterans was given canes to honor their service. The canes, which are topped with a hand-carved head of an American eagle, are a collaborative effort of the Maine Woodcarvers Association and the Maine Woodturners.
Twin brothers Ronald and Randell Kelley, 48, along with their father, David Kelley, 75, were awarded eagle canes, according to a press release. David Kelley’s brother Robert Kelley was given the cane posthumously. Everett Cross also received a cane. All the men served in the U.S. Army.
Gov. John Baldacci, in a holiday statement issued early in the day, reminded Mainers to remember the nation’s fallen heroes. He also ordered that flags be lowered until noon in tribute to America’s fallen soldiers and raised to the top of the staff until sunset in honor of our country’s war heroes.
The governor was in Bangor to see his order carried out at noon after he placed a wreath at the Battleship Maine Monument. Baldacci, who cannot run for re-election, said he has attended many Memorial Day events in his hometown during his years as an elected official. Over those years, he said, attendance at the Bangor event has grown.
“When I first began participating, the crowds were not as great as they are today,” the governor said. “I’ve noticed each year more and more people turn out and that’s good, because more people understand the importance of those sacrifices and realize that their son or daughter or someone else’s son or daughter is off somewhere in harm’s way or has made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The governor also said that, unlike in more populous states, all of Maine is one large community and it acts like an extended family in times of crisis. It is a quality that residents should cherish about their state, he said.
“This is a day for those that have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Baldacci said, “and for us to reflect on how they did it and why they did it.”
He urged people to continue to observe Memorial Day in the future.
Her three sons’ futures are one of the reasons Dora McCarthy, 34, of Bangor brought her boys, ages 4 to 13, and the family’s black German shepherd, Jasmine, to the parade. Another was the fact that after a recent move they all could walk to Davenport Park.
“It’s a time to show vets that we care,” Kendrick McCarthy, 13, of Bangor said of the meaning of Memorial Day. “Even if they sat at a desk or were on the front lines, we come here to show that we care.”