ROCKLAND, Maine — It took 16 years, but on Friday the Midcoast Area Veterans Memorial — a 34-foot-long concrete wall with black granite tiles etched with veterans’ portraits — stood for about 200 people to see.
The roughly $300,000 memorial was dedicated Friday evening to all veterans.
“I’ve noticed that the tiles on this memorial have been gifted by individual citizens. This set of names isn’t derived from some cleanly edited government list of veterans whose official homes-of-record lie exclusively within midcoast counties. This group represented here reflects more organic ties between military and community,” said Capt. Christopher Roberge, the sector commander for Coast Guard Sector Northern New England.
The memorial is set in a hill on Limerock Street near Winslow-Holbrook-Merritt American Legion Post — a quiet spot with a nearly panoramic view of Rockland’s grassy inland area. The spot was the site of the city’s Civil War encampment. In fact, the volunteers who worked on the memorial found the hole where the Civil War-era flag used to fly while doing construction work. On Friday, military members hoisted a reproduction flag on a pole placed in the same spot.
“This is living history,” said Mike McNeil, of Rockland, the man who launched the effort to get a veterans’ memorial in town. “It’s personalized. It’s a peaceful place to remember and reflect.”
McNeil got the idea 16 years ago when he went to a different celebration of the city’s veterans.
“I didn’t realize how many people I knew were veterans,” he said. “I learned so many people in town are WWII vets. I thought, ‘Why don’t we have something to show for this?’”
The project was constructed piecemeal, as donations came in.
Looking into the shiny black tiles, which reflected the sunset, was John Brainard, father of Army Capt. John “Jay” R. Brainard III of Newport, who was killed in Afghanistan in May when the Apache helicopter he was piloting crashed.
“I came tonight to represent my son,” Brainard said. “He was one of the most honorable men I know. I don’t want his memory to be forgot.”
The volunteers who created the wall, Midcoast Area Veterans Memorial Committee, assured Brainard that his son’s portrait will be engraved into black granite and put on the memorial as soon as possible.