Flags retired at Liberty Fest service

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Brayden Austin of Sabattus, left, Gavin Colby of Hebron, center, and Brylee Roberge of Sabattus, right, patiently wait with an armful of flags to be burned at Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston on Tuesday night during the Salute to the American Flag and Retirement Ceremony. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — The Liberty Fest held a Salute to the American Flag and Retirement Ceremony on Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Park to commemorate and properly dispose of American flags that are no longer serviceable.

Miss Maine 2018 Olivia Mayo sang the national anthem to open the ceremony, and then the three large flags that were being disposed of were inspected a final time to ensure they were no longer usable.

Once an American flag is unserviceable, it is supposed to be destroyed in a fitting way, preferably by burning.

One flag was used to commemorate all of the flags being disposed of Tuesday night, with each of the 13 stripes being cut and burned separately. The rest of the flags were folded and added to the fire.

A crowd of onlookers watched as the flags were retired, added to the fire and meant to be burned to ash.

Commander Willie Danforth of AMVETS Post 6 in New Gloucester, left, grabs flags from John Johnson of Lewiston to be burned during Tuesday’s Salute to the American Flag and Retirement Ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

To further honor veterans and active duty soldiers, this year’s ceremony included the Silhouette Project by Linda Lajoie — a set of 22 life-size cutouts representing the estimated 22 veterans who commit suicide every day in the United States.

Lajoie of Gardiner started the project after her son committed suicide in 2014, two years after he got out of the Army.

“I wasn’t aware of it until it was too late,” she said. “They are fighting a battle that can’t be seen, due to the stigma of mental health issues.”

“I wanted them life-size,” Lajoie said. “I wanted people to see what 22 people looks like.”

She said the purpose of the installation is to get people talking, to break the silence.

“They fought for our country,” Lajoie said, “and we need to be there for them.”

Maine AMVETS Commander Jerry Dewitt plays taps during Tuesday night’s Salute to the American Flag and Retirement Ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston.(Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Jen Caron of Sabattus received a Hometown Hero Award from Modern Woodmen, a fraternal financial organization, for her work with the Harry Conway American Legion Auxiliary Unit 135. As a junior member, she participates in a variety of events and fundraisers for care packages delivered to active military overseas.

Caron also places flowers and flags are local cemeteries with her class of fifth-grade students.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Amedeo J. Lauria of Sabattus, the second Hometown Hero award recipient, was awarded for history with the Army that began with his first military tour of duty in 1973.

Since then, he was also trained Army senior ROTC cadets, managed recruiting operations across New England and assisted with flag etiquette at schools in Regional School Unit 4.

AMVETS State Commander Jerry DeWitt of Poland, the third Hometown Hero award recipient, began his Army career in 1964.

He currently works for Veterans Outreach at Tri-County Mental Health Services in Lewiston, and has held positions as a nurse, social worker and substance abuse counselor. DeWitt also helps maintain Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston.

Each winner received a $100 donation to the charity of his or her choice and a certificate of appreciation.

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