BANGOR, Maine — Judi Funaiole of Hudson and Debbie Croft of Kenduskeag on Monday brought their grandchildren to downtown Bangor for the Memorial Day parade.
“We came to say ‘thank you’ to everybody that served and to remember those who died,” Funaiole said. “We bought them some flags to wave.”
Mackayla Young, 10, of Hudson, and Kaleb Griffith, 11, of Kenduskeag said they had learned about caring for the flag in school.
“Don’t ever let it touch the ground,” the boy said.
“It has 13 stripes and 50 stars for the 13 colonies and all 50 states,” the girl said.
Generations of other families lined the sidewalks along Main Street as school bands, junior ROTC groups, Boy Scouts, Brownies, Troop Greeters, and veterans from four wars marched by. Those who served during World War II, the Korean War, the war in Vietnam and the global war on terror were greeted with applause and shouts of “thank you.”
Ed Bonenfant of Winterport marched with the Korean War veterans.
“A lot of us couldn’t make it, so I marched for them,” Bonenfont, who served in the U.S. Navy Medical Corp., said at the end of the parade route. “I’ve been in the parade for many years. My grandkids keep after me about it.”
The parade is a tradition for many. Croft said she and her family have been coming to Bangor for the annual parade for numerous years.
“When my own kids were little, maybe just 4 or 5, we were watching the parade and Sen. George Mitchell walked over and shook their hands,” she said.
No members of the Congressional delegations led the parade Monday, but members of Bangor’s city council were on hand.
Bangor Mayor Cary Weston spoke at a short ceremony following the parade at the USS Maine memorial in Davenport Park. He urged people to remember not just those who have fallen in battle.
“To the families of those who fell in battle, know that they did not die in vain,” he said. “It is the courage, the bravery and selflessness of your loved ones that keeps the promise of freedom strong today. To the families of those who contributed away from the battlefield and the smoky skies, know their contributions and their commitments to the promise are honored.”
Both Weston’s grandfathers served in the armed forces, one as a sailor, the other as an airplane mechanic at the former Dow Air Force base, now Bangor International Airport.
“Their contributions, as with so many of our veterans, were not on the battlefield, but in the background,” Weston said. “Their work was done in the steam of the engine room and noise of the airplane hangars. While their tales were not of fire and flame, they were of pride, friendship, commitment and teamwork.”
Memorial Day became a national celebration in 1868, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. That year, Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued an order designating May 30 “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”
Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday has been observed on the last Monday in May since 1971.