BY ROXANNE MOORE SAUCIER
FOR THE MIDCOAST BEACON
BELFAST — It has been 10 years since Everett McKenney died, the World War I veteran who seemed to win the heart of every reporter who met him.
McKenney, the longtime Waterville resident who was still sharp as most tacks when he died at 104, spent his time in Angers, France.
One of 35,061 Mainers sent to France during the Great War, McKenney could tell you that just getting across the ocean was treacherous. Some 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, he recalled.
“We lost a lot going over,” McKenney said. “We had to bury a few at sea.”
At an aging military facility in France, McKenney found himself standing guard duty and training — but well aware that periodically, an officer would arrive and pick out a dozen men or so who would be spirited away after midnight.
“We never saw them again,” McKenney said, surmising that the soldiers had left for the front.
The training in France involved many skills, and McKenney was in good shape when it 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 had grown up learning how to tie all kinds of knots.
When word came that the war finally had ended with a truce at 11th hour 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 had gone eerily silent.
Yes, he was excited, but there was none of the jubilation that was breaking out in Paris — or that was felt in Maine as schools were letting out early and people were filling the streets.
McKenney had made it to Armistice Day, which eventually would be renamed Veterans Day to honor all Americans who served in the military.
It would be April 1919 before the Maine soldier could “find a way home” on a German ship supervised by Americans.
Two months before he died, more than 100 people turned out to see 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 the last charter member of the largest American Legion Post in the state, the 1,100 member Bourque-Lanigan Post No. 5 in Waterville.
In Waldo County, activities are scheduled for the annual Veterans Day Parade at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11. The parade will start at Belfast Area High School, then proceed to Redman’s Hall and down to the waterfront where refreshments will be served.
Free breakfast will be served 5:45-8:45 a.m. at Redman’s Hall at the corner of Waldo Avenue and Main Street, and all are invited. That night, there will be a USO-type show featuring the Marsh River Singers at 6:30 p.m. at the American Legion Hall, entrance on Church Street.
All veterans are welcome to take part in the parade, and those with disabilities may ride on floats being prepared for the parade. Veterans also may get a free ride to the parade and back if needed — those interested may contact Sonny Sullivan at 323-1073 or Steve Brown at 322-5412.
Advance registration for the parade is not required, and veterans may simply show up at the high school, where the parade is being organized at 9 a.m. For information, contact Cliff Larrabee, commander of the American Legion Frank D. Hazeltine Post 43, at 338-1202 or 322-8899, or Steve Brown, commander of VFW Randall Collins Post 3108, at 338-2358.
“Arrangements are being made to bring in the marching band, color guard and floats for those who cannot march with us,” noted Larrabee. “Veterans are invited to participate, as well as all those who want to come and participate in our local version of this annual historic event.”
The parade will end by the flag at the waterfront, where a chaplain will offer a prayer for veterans.
Maine veterans who have not received their walking stick for serving in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War or Global War on Terrorism may pick one up 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Veterans Day at the Cole Land Transportation Museum, 405 Perry Road, Bangor. Bring a military ID or DD214.
BELFAST — Veterans Day Parade, 10 a.m. Nov. 11, from Belfast Area High School to Redman’s Hall and to waterfront, where refreshments will be served. All veterans welcome to participate. 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 beginning 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, entrance on Church Street.
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. First Student buses available for those who cannot walk the route. Park in Twin City lot. 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.
BREWER — Bangor Area Breakfast Rotary Club, annual 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 in advance from Rotary members.
BANGOR — Veterans Day program, 1 p.m. Nov. 11, Cole Land Transportation Museum, 405 Perry Road, Bangor. School students reading award-winning essays, “What Freedom Means to Me After Interviewing a Veteran.” Patriotic concert by Bangor Band. Free.
BLUE HILL — Remembrance lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Flags removed for winter from the War Dead Memorial, 11 a.m. Nov. 14, between the Blue Hill Congregational Church and the Blue Hill Public Library. Community members invited to participate in reading of the names of the war dead. Sponsored by Peninsula Peace & Justice. 326-4405.
CASTINE — Veterans Day Observance ceremony, 11:50 a.m. Nov. 11, in front of Leavitt Hall, Maine Maritime Academy. Sponsored and organized by Student Government Association, supported by the 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.