CAMDEN, Maine — The weather was mild, but the salutes were sharp Monday as hundreds of area residents turned out to watch the Memorial Day parade and to pay tribute to fallen soldiers.
At a wreath-laying ceremony at Mount View Cemetery on Mountain Street, people were reminded that, despite the sunny weather and festive atmosphere, Monday’s event was not just about cookouts, getting a day off from work or watching a parade.
“Today, we honor a special group of Americans,” 15-year-old Lincolnville resident Robin Botley told those who had gathered at the cemetery. “[We honor] men and women who served their country and gave their lives in service.”
Officials with American Legion Post 30, which sponsored the parade and ceremony, and a military honor guard were on hand to echo Botley’s comments. As part of the ceremony, the color guard fired a salute immediately after the wreath was laid at a flagpole flying a flag at half-staff.
After the ceremony, Ronald Rainfrette, commander of American Legion Post 30, said that he served during the Vietnam era in the Army with the 624th Military Police Company at Fort Devens, Mass. He said that though he did not serve overseas, he was in the Army when many soldiers returned home and were called “baby killers” by people opposed to the war.
He said American society is much more welcoming of veterans now than it was 40 years ago.
“The tide now is changed. Everything is much better now,” Rainfrette said.
Monday’s ceremonies in Camden, throughout Maine and the country show that most people now are willing to show gratitude to military veterans who died trying to protect American rights, he said.
“We owe it to our vets and to our fallen soldiers,” he said.
Raymond Lewis, adjutant commander of Post 30, helped pay homage to those veterans as the parade moved through downtown Camden. Stopping at the veterans memorial in the Village Green and then at the Civil War memorial next to the library, Lewis placed a wreath at each site and saluted silently as the color guard stood nearby in rapt attention.
At the cemetery, Lewis also addressed the people who had come to remember those who had died in military service.
“The men and women who gave their lives for freedom can never be forgotten,” Lewis said. “We will never forget the terrible loss you have suffered.”
In keeping with American tradition, the parade also gave people a chance to have fun. Children ran around the Village Green as the Camden Hills Regional High School marching band and other parade participants filed by on Main Street. Some paraders threw candy to observers on nearby sidewalks.
Even some area canine residents got in on the festivities. Members of the Camden-Rockport Animal Rescue League marched in the parade with their dogs, many of which have been adopted.
“We are very excited to walk the parade this year and join the community in honoring our local veterans,” the group’s executive director, Sarah Shepherd, said before the parade in a prepared statement.