MILO, Maine — If somebody asks Ron Knowles why he wanted to build in the town cemetery a monument to all the nation’s veterans, he could answer with words he used at the monument’s dedication on Saturday.
“‘A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in, and how many want out,’” Knowles quoted former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as saying. “‘Only two defining forces have ever died for you: Jesus Christ and the American G.I. One died for your soul; the other for your freedom.’”
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, representatives of U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Brownville Town Manager Matthew Pineo and several local veterans group leaders were among the several hundred attending.
Knowles was a last-minute fill-in as master of ceremonies. DeWitt passed out roses — red roses for veterans killed in action; yellow for those missing in action — that Maine Air National Guardsmen placed on the monument pavers honoring deceased veterans during the dedication.
Near the town’s World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam war memorials, the latest monument serves, speakers said, as a reminder that freedom is too often purchased at the dearest cost — the lives of patriots.
A Milo native, retired CNN anchor and CIA employee David French told the crowd that the United States was born by sacrifice. Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, he said, five were captured as traitors and tortured before dying; 12 had their homes ransacked or destroyed; two lost sons who were Revolutionary Army soldiers and two more had soldier-sons captured by the British.
“In a perfect world, a monument like this would not be necessary,” said Michaud, who followed his appearance in Milo with a tour of the Brownville areas damaged by last weekend’s flooding.
Michaud said he had recently visited Pfc. Jonathan Harmon, a U.S. Army soldier wounded in Afghanistan, and was again reminded of how this country’s soldiers make enormous sacrifices.
In a statement read by her representative, Snowe, R-Maine, asked everyone “to testify that we will keep the faith with those who have so nobly kept the faith with us — that we will stand by those who will stand by us.”
Collins, R-Maine, cited in her statement Little Round Top, Flanders, Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima as among the places Mainers had served. Milo’s monument shows how much Mainers appreciate the sacrifices made for them, she said.
The monument consists of five separate granite monuments, one for each military branch, on a 12-inch-thick granite base. Each monument has the branch insignias, the year each branch was established, and stanzas from their associated anthems.
Those monuments encircle a monument for the killed, missing in action and prisoners of war. Two walkways consisting of 277 granite pavers, or walking stones, connect the new monuments to the two existing monuments at the cemetery.
Twelve flags representing all the U.S. military branches, including the U.S. Merchant Marine, line the walkways, and it also includes a flag dedicated to POWs and MIAs and the state flag.
The monument is a fitting addition to Milo, French said.
“It represents the first opportunity for everyone with any connection to the military to have a place to come to honor veterans,” he said.
The monument construction might be finished, but it will keep growing, Knowles said. People can continue to add paver stones commemorating individual veterans, he said.