RUMFORD — Hundreds of River Valley residents gathered along the parade route Monday to pay tribute to the nation’s war dead, including U.S. Army Pfc. Buddy McLain who was killed in Afghanistan last November.
A memorial stone honoring U.S. military personnel who have died in the Afghanistan war was unveiled at the Mexico Greens by the Mexico Police Explorers. The Explorers presented Larry and Patti McLain with an American flag in honor of their son. The 24-year-old Peru resident served with the 101st Army Airborne Division.
U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan B. Collins, Republicans of Maine, have undertaken measures to investigate the circumstances surrounding McLain’s death. Both attended his funeral at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford last December.
“Sen. Snowe has been wonderful,” Larry McLain said Monday. “She has gone out of her way for us. She has been in touch with us every week and has kept us informed with every communication she has had with the Army, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the defense secretary and everyone else.
“She even made it possible for one of Buddy’s brothers, Cote, to make it up for this ceremony, when he was unable to make it on his own.”
“I owe it to Buddy McLain for his duty, heroism and sacrifice,” Snowe said at Monday’s ceremony.
Sen. Snowe, during the Mexico memorial service’s keynote speech, spoke of McLain’s “unflagging sense of purpose, unflinching heroism and embodiment of what is best in America.
“We will always remember with honor the sacrifice made by Buddy McLain, a valiant soldier who perished for our great land nobly and courageously,” she said.
Buddy McLain grew up in Mexico and was a 2006 graduate of Mountain Valley High School. He was a member of the Napoleon Ouellette American Legion Post 24 and the Rumford Falls Aerie 1248 FOE.
He married Chelsea Freeman in Peru on March 11, 2009, and they had a son, Owen Patrick McLain. Both attended Monday’s service, along with McLain’s parents. McLain also has three brothers who survive him: Dustin, Cote and Greg Gibbons.
“He wanted to join the Army since he was a little boy,” his father said, “then come back and work in local law enforcement. He was a good kid.”
Sheryl Briggs, D-Mexico, presented McLain’s parents with a memorial certificate from the 125th Maine Legislature.
Additionally, she directed attendees to the 26 yellow ribbons honoring each of the 26 active River Valley military personnel. The ribbons are set on the hillside surrounding the town of Mexico lettering above the park. They were created by Renee Hodsdon of Roxbury, who along with her mother came up with the idea to honor the troops.
The service included reading every name on the veterans’ memorial plaques by a family member.
Members of Post 24 organized the Memorial Day parade and ceremonies. Parade marshal was Ed Roach, former commander of Post 24 and present Maine American Legion adjutant general.
The parade began at 10 a.m. at the American Legion parking lot on Congress Street under sunny skies and temperatures in the 80s. The procession included veterans, local service organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, local and regional politicians, bands, floats, antique autos, the Rumford Police Department Honor Guard, and fire and emergency vehicles.
It crossed Memorial Bridge to the Rotary Memorial Green for a service at the Veterans Memorial, where Lloyd Woods, Department of Maine American Legion adjutant, and Bryan Lucas, American Legion commander of Post 24, spoke. A wreath was laid at the memorial.
Proceeding down Rumford Avenue and Waldo Street to Route 2, the parade ended at Mexico’s Memorial Greens.
“It is with honor, pride and gratitude that we have gathered here on this solemn occasion to remember the heroic service of our fallen soldiers,” Lucas told the crowd of nearly 200.
His opening remarks were followed by a prayer by the Rev. Philip Tracey of the Holy Savior Parish Church of Rumford, a song by the Mountain Valley High School band and speeches by Lloyd Woods and Mexico Town Manager John Madigan.