farmington – The town celebrated Memorial Day with a mix of somber remembrance and festive celebration.
As always, the observance culminated with a parade that circled through downtown. Cheering families and friends waved to the local veterans who marched, along with the Old Crow Indian Band, Boy Scouts and other child groups who joined in for the parade.
Before the festive atmosphere of the parade, many veterans crowded into the American Legion lodge for a service to remember their fallen comrades.
Rep. Janet Mills, D-Farmington, was guest speaker, talking for several minutes about the importance of Memorial Day, and urging a greater awareness of past sacrifices on a daily basis.
“Today is Memorial Day 2006. The day we remember those who gave their lives for their country,” Mills said at beginning of her speech. “But, in all sincerity, I believe that every day should be Memorial Day.
“Yesterday, 12 Americans were killed in Iraq,” she added. “For the families of those lost in Iraq, every day will always be Memorial Day for the child whose mother or father stands guard today in Baghdad, every day is Memorial Day.”
Mills also spoke of the great contribution Maine made in past wars and named many local veterans who died during such wars. After the speech, World War II veteran Bob Stevens said Mills’ words hit home for him especially.
“A lot of the people that she mentioned, many of them I went to school with,” Stevens said. “It’s a pretty moving thing, and then it also makes you feel guilty you don’t feel this way more often.”
After the service the parade set off with veterans leading the way. While the morning offered a more solemn mood, many veterans said the festivities of the parade and the cheering of onlookers was appreciated.
“You’re celebrating all the good things they did for the country and you’re also mourning the brave men and women that died for this country, so it’s a combination of both,” said Bob Pachucka, a veteran of the Vietnam era.
“I think it’s important that they have both,” Stevens said. “It’s important to an awful lot of people, I think, to recall a lot of these things. It’s hard to recall a lot of them. Maybe important as anything, for a short period of time at least, is that it brings a lot of people together.”
For Sherryl Kempton, this Memorial Day hits home more than ever. After serving in the Army Reserve for nearly 16 years, Kempton will leave on June 8 for duty in Iraq, where she will serve in a combat-support hospital. She agreed that despite the somber tone of remembrance, there can still be a celebratory feel to the annual holiday.
“I think it’s the camaraderie of the military that makes it festive,” said Kempton, who said she feels “proud, sad, and honored” on this Memorial Day.
Korean War veteran Bob Burton said with the war in Iraq he has noticed a greater level of support for the troops.
“I think there’s a lot more patriotism now than there was years back,” Burton said. “After Vietnam, things were kind of bad. Today I think people are a lot more supportive of the troops and our country.”