Day is done, gone the sun

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Today is Memorial Day.

A symbol of what that means stands in Raymond Park, just opposite American Legion Post 153 on South Main Street in Auburn. It’s a monument to veterans set there by local Scouts, boys who raised money and got the necessary permission from the city to erect this testament.

The 1,000-pound monument includes a sketch of the American flag and symbols for the five military branches: Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines.

And, carved into its stone face, is the sentiment: “Lest we forget veterans of all wars.”

The monument was set in 2001.

This year, it was a veteran who honored the Scouts.

When SFC Gary J. O’Connell of Lewiston, who served with the 133rd Engineer Battalion in Iraq, returned home and learned of the Scouts’ project, he wanted to do something to recognize the boys for their efforts. He presented the Scouts with an American flag flown over the U.S. base in Mosul.

That flag is now beautifully displayed in a frame, along with the story of how it had been flown over a combat unit at war. It hangs on the wall in the Scouts’ meeting hall in Auburn.

The continuing conflict in Iraq, and the recent deaths of Mainers serving there, makes this Memorial Day particularly somber. That a local soldier, fresh from a year of duty overseas, recognizes what Scouts in his own community have done to honor him and his comrades – alive and dead – and chooses to demonstrate his gratitude is comforting.

There are thousands of memorials across this country dedicated to the lives and service of veterans of the armed forces. The one in Auburn, where the Scouts continue to observe their devotion by routinely placing fresh flowers there, carries the same message with the same strength as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the National World War II Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: we honor those who fight in our name, and we will not forget their sacrifice.

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