FARMINGTON — Veterans Day services were held in the Farmington, Wilton, Jay and the Livermore Falls area Sunday on the traditionally observed day — the 11th month, 11th day and 11th hour that signaled the end of World War I.
Wreath-laying ceremonies were held and many words of appreciation were voiced by those who gathered to pay respect to the men and women who served and sacrificed to provide freedom for everyone.
"It was the day the guns fell silent," state Rep. Russell Black said at an early-morning service at the memorial in downtown Wilton.
Designated as a national holiday in 1938, then known as Armistice Day, it was changed to Veterans Day in 1950, he said.
"Because of our veterans, our country still stands," Lt. Col. Michael Backus of the Maine Army and National Guard said during the Wilton service.
Wreath-laying ceremonies, hosted by the American Legion in Livermore Falls and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3335 in Jay, were held throughout the morning in Livermore, Livermore Falls, Jay and Fayette, said Jocelyn Collins, commander of American Legion Post 10.
At the Jay War Memorial, she remembered local service people by asking those present to remember and pray for Jacob Nichols, now serving in Afghanistan, and Helaina Lake, who was injured during a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in June. Lake is tentatively expected to come home this month for a short time, she said.
"We wouldn't be here, able to do this," she said without the service and sacrifice given by all those who have served in this country's military.
In Farmington, the American Legion placed wreaths at the WWI memorial and in Meetinghouse Park before a larger service took place at Walmart Sunday afternoon.
Remembering many local servicemen from each war and conflict, Janet Mills of Farmington said at the Walmart service, the day was one to mourn our losses and honor those who made sacrifices.
"This week we were able to cast ballots without fear of intimidation," she said of the service given by veterans. "But in war there are no unwounded soldiers."
One Farmington couple knows too well the truth to her words. Following the death of his son, Justin Crowley Smilek, an Army Ranger who returned from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder, Michael and Lorna Smilek are serving as veteran advocates and were instrumental in starting local veteran- and family-support groups this year.
PTSD also affects the person's family, Smilek said of his efforts to help people understand more about the disorder.
Members of Farmington Emblem Club No. 460 performed a flag-folding ceremony, and Shannon Smith spoke about their effort to honor veterans through a Pocket Flag Project. A total of 300 small flags were similarly folded to pocket size by Emblem members to let those in the military know they are remembered and appreciated.
Cards of appreciation have also been given out in some RSU 9 schools to children of military families. The cards show appreciation to the child and families' sacrifice, she said.
The American Hero program has been well received and members hope to visit other schools within the county, she added.