BY ROXANNE MOORE SAUCIER
FOR THE WEEKLY
Veterans from World War II forward are getting out their uniforms or Legion garb for Veterans Day.
It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since World War I veteran Everett McKenney died, the aged veteran who seemed to win the heart of every reporter who met him.
Mac McKenney, the longtime Waterville resident who was still sharp as most tacks at 104, spent his time in Angers, France, standing guard duty and training.
One of 35,061 Mainers sent to France during the Great War, McKenney could tell you that just getting across the ocean was plenty treacherous.
A good number of the 5,200 men packed into a 400-foot ship for the 12-day trip to France fell victim to the 1918 influenza epidemic.
“We lost a lot going over,” McKenney said in 1999. “We had to bury a few at sea.”
Once stationed at an old military facility in Angers, he and his fellow soldiers trained and stood guard duty — well aware that periodically, an officer would arrive and pick out a dozen men who would be spirited away after midnight.
“We never saw them again,” McKenney said, surmising that the soldiers had left for the front.
McKenney was in good shape when the training came to tying knots — “short splice, long splice, half hitch, timber hitch, masthead. I got along with that very, very good.”
His father had worked in a shipyard in Belfast, so he’d grown up learning how to tie all kinds of knots.
When the war finally ended with a truce at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month, McKenney was slogging through mud, carrying a .30-06 rifle on guard duty. The guns in the distance fell silent.
Yes, he was excited to hear it was over, but there was none of the jubilation breaking out in Paris, or schools letting out early and people filling the streets as in Maine cities and towns on Armistice Day — now commemorated as Veterans Day.
It would be April before the Maine soldier could even “find a way home,” as he put it.
Two months before he died in September 1999, more than 100 people turned out to see Everett McKenney receive the Order of the Legion of Honor from the consul general of France, an award that was presented to World War I veterans who served on French soil.
He was also the last charter member of the largest American Legion Post in the state, the 1,100 member Bourque-Lanigan Post No. 5 in Waterville.
The Cole Land Transportation Museum is organizing several activities for Veterans Day.
There will be free breakfast for veterans, compliments of the Cole Museum and Bangor Rotary Breakfast Club, 7-11 a.m. during the club’s Veterans Day pancake breakfast at Brewer Auditorium. Veterans are asked to bring their walking sticks.
Veterans of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, the Global War on Terrorism and other eras are invited to walk in the Veterans Day Parade with their brothers and sisters for those who cannot.
Veterans will form for the parade next to the building at 373 Wilson St., Brewer, beginning at 9 a.m. for the 10:15 a.m. parade.
Veterans who cannot walk may ride First Student buses along the 1½-mile route down Wilson Street, across the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge to Bangor, down Main Street to the reviewing stand, and on to Exchange Street.
Parade participants may park their cars in the Twin City parking lot in Brewer.
Veterans who wish to ride the First Student buses may leave their cars at 9:30 a.m. near TD Bank on Exchange Street in Bangor and will be brought to Brewer. Buses also will bring veterans from Exchange Street back to Brewer after the parade ends.
Cole Land Transportation Museum’s Veterans Day program will begin at 1 p.m. Nov. 11 at 405 Perry Road, Bangor.
Six Maine school students will read their award-winning essays, “What Freedom Means to Me After Interviewing a Veteran,” and receive awards.
Afterward, the Bangor Band will present a patriotic concert. Bring families — it is free.
Veterans who do not have their walking sticks may receive them 9 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week through Nov. 11, the last day the museum will be open for the season.
Veterans should bring their military ID or DD214.
“Let’s make this the biggest parade of veterans ever,” said Chuck Knowlen, Vietnam veteran and museum volunteer.
BREWER-BANGOR — Veterans Day Parade, 10:15 a.m. Nov. 11, beginning on Wilson Street, Brewer, proceeding across Joshua Chamberlain Bridge to Bangor, down Main Street, up State Street, disbanding on Exchange Street.
BREWER — Veterans of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, the Global War on Terrorism and other eras forming at 9 a.m. Nov. 11 for parade by 373 Wilson St., Brewer. First Student buses available for those who cannot walk the route. Park in Twin City lot, Brewer. Veterans riding buses may leave their cars at 9:30 a.m. near TD Bank on Exchange Street, Bangor and will be brought to Brewer.
BANGOR — Veterans Day program, 1 p.m. Nov. 11, Cole Land Transportation Museum, 405 Perry Road. School students reading award-winning essays, “What Freedom Means to Me After Interviewing a Veteran.” Patriotic concert by Bangor Band. Free.
BANGOR — Maine Veterans of World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and War on Global Terrorism who do not have their walking sticks may receive them 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Nov. 11 at Cole Land Transportation Museum, 405 Perry Road. Bring military ID or DD214.
BELFAST — Veterans Day Parade, 10 a.m. Nov. 11, from Belfast Area High School to Redman’s Hall and waterfront, where refreshments will be served. All veterans welcome. Those with disabilities may ride on floats. Veterans may get free ride to parade and back, contact Sonny Sullivan at 323-1073 or Steve Brown at 322-5412. Parade forms at 9 a.m. at high school.
BELFAST — Free breakfast, 5:45-8:45 a.m. Nov. 11, Redman’s Hall, Waldo Avenue and Main Street.
BELFAST — USO-type show with Marsh River Singers, 6:30 p.m. Nov. 11, American Legion Hall, enter on Church Street.
BLUE HILL — Remembrance of lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Flags removed for winter from the War Dead Memorial, 11 a.m. Nov. 14, between Blue Hill Congregational Church and Blue Hill Public Library. Community members invited to participate in reading of names of war dead. Sponsored by Peninsula Peace & Justice. 326-4405.
BREWER — Bangor Area Breakfast Rotary Club, pancake breakfast, 7-11 a.m. Nov. 11, Brewer Auditorium. $7, $4 under 12. With support of Cole Land Transportation Museum, veterans with walking sticks eat free. Benefits Bangor Area Breakfast Rotary’s Keep Kids Warm Program. Tickets at door or from Rotary members.
CASTINE — Veterans Day Observance, 11:50 a.m. Nov. 11, in front of Leavitt Hall, Maine Maritime Academy. Sponsored and organized by Student Government Association, supported by Regiment of Midshipmen, with student speakers and music by the Maritones, MMA band, pipe and drum corps, drill team, 21-gun salute. Wreath placed by Down East Chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans Association at base of Merchant Marine memorial.
STOCKTON SPRINGS — Veterans Day program and reception, 11:11 a.m. Nov. 11, Stockton Springs Veterans Memorial Park. Stockton Springs American Legion Jerry W. Dobbins Post 157 will commemorate service of veterans of all wars and continuing quest for an honorable world peace. Afterward, veterans and area residents welcome to attend Veterans Day reception, Legion Hall on Route 1 in Sandy Point.