BANGOR — For 18 years, the walking stick program at Cole Land Transportation Museum has inspired hundreds of veterans to participate in Bangor’s annual parades. What started out as a gift for World War Two-ers only has now put Maine-made maple walking sticks in the hands of more than 8,300 veterans statewide
Volunteers continue to distribute the walking sticks to Maine veterans at the museum, and those with the sticks who take part in the Memorial Day Parade will receive a reflective red-white-and-blue sticker for their sticks before the parade begins at 10:30 a.m. Monday, May 27, on Exchange Street.
World War II veterans have been receiving annual stickers for their walking sticks every year, explained museum founder Galen Cole, and that small gift has remained popular. He said he hopes that the addition of a separate sticker for the rest of the veterans — Korean War, Vietnam War and Global War on Terror — will keep them turning out for the parade and swell the ranks of marching veterans.
Maine veterans who have walking sticks and will participate in the parade are invited to bring their walking sticks beginning at 9 a.m. May 27 to the undercover entrance to The First bank at 145 Exchange St. to receive their special sticker from Cole Museum volunteers.
More participation by veterans makes for a better parade, Cole said, but what he really wants is for every veteran, with walking stick or not, to experience the constant applause and cheers of the appreciative parade watchers.
“Having large numbers of cheering people, in remembrance of our fallen heroes and those who are unable to walk with us, is a challenge and a privilege,” Cole said. “The clapping of hands, waving of flags and vocal cheers is their strong and direct thank you to veterans for their service.”
Cyr buses will be available for veterans to ride in the parade if they are unable to walk the half-mile route. The buses also will bring participating veterans back to Exchange Street after the parade.
The parade will go up Main Street to Davenport Park at the corner of Main and Cedar streets.
Walking sticks are available free to Maine veterans who served in one of the four war eras. Those eligible should bring proof of ID and their DD-214 or military ID 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily to Cole Land Transportation Museum at 405 Perry Road.
Again this year, the museum will sponsor its annual Memorial Day Program beginning at noon on Perry Road. The Bangor High School Band will provide patriotic music, and band boosters will sell hot dogs, hamburgers, soda and whoopie pies.
Veterans attending with their walking stick will receive free hot dog or hamburger and soda. Children attending the program at the museum will receive a free keepsake American flag with base.
Those who bring lawn chairs will receive upfront seating for the 1 p.m. program featuring Maine’s Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell.
Activities will conclude by 2 p.m., Cole said, and those attending may visit the museum free after the program.
Volunteers are at the heart of museum programs, Cole said, and the facility is in need of more people to give time by leading tours, serving as cashiers or talking with small groups of students who participate in the Veterans Interview Program. No experience is necessary, and those with interest may contact Pat Trice at 990-3600, ext. 13.
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