LEWISTON — Before the songs, the speeches and the color guard marches, Charlie Morin choked up.
"I've been crying all weekend," Morin said, standing beneath the balcony of the Lewiston Armory as uniformed soldiers and veterans lined up. Something in the pageantry and the flags and music seemed to catch him by the throat.
"It's hard to think of myself as a veteran, too," Morin said. "No offense, but veterans are those guys with gray hair."
There was plenty of gray hair at Monday's event, run by the L&A Veterans Council. The Veterans Musical Tribute included a performance by the Just Us Singers and groups from every branch of the military service, as well as several American Legion posts, the AMVETS and local Army and Air Force cadets.
Veterans reached as far back as World War II and Korea.
Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald, a Vietnam veteran, was among the speakers.
"We must recognize our veterans and their families," Macdonald said.
Meanwhile, Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte insisted that more people should have attended Monday's event. Hundreds did, though many marched or played music as part of the ceremony.
Morin watched it all.
One year ago, he left the Army Reserve after 28 years of service and three active-duty deployments. The threat of more time in a war zone and more separation kept him from re-enlisting.
"I'd still be with them," he said. "But it's too much. I've missed graduations and birthdays and Christmases."
Morin served in the first Gulf War's Operation Desert Storm. He went to Iraq in 2005 and again in 2009.
He served as a first sergeant with the Army Reserve's 619th Transportation Company. He helped run convoys of trucks carrying vital supplies to U.S. soldiers.
The work and the relationships felt important, he said.
"Most of all, you miss the camaraderie of the people," he said.