PORTLAND (AP) – Mainers commemorated Memorial Day by going to parades and paying respect to those who have died for America’s freedom.

Monday was an overcast day for much of Maine, with rain arriving in late morning and afternoon as a front moved across the state from west to east. Still, most towns managed to get in their parades and other planned events before the rain could wash them out.

In Skowhegan, friends and family members remembered Maj. Jay Aubin, 36, of Waterville, one of four U.S. Marines and eight British Marines who perished in a March 21 helicopter crash in Kuwait, near the Iraqi border.

Aubin’s mother, Nancy Chamberlain, told a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial that her son loved serving his country and had told her that if anything happened to him during the war to remember that he was doing what he believed in.

“Those who get out there to the war, to the front lines, they’re truly exceptional people,” Chamberlain said. “It wasn’t just my son and those men who died with him. It’s all of them who are out there.”

In Lewiston, Nancy Cunningham, the mother of Army Spc. Daniel Cunningham, put up a yellow ribbon for the dedication of the city’s new Veterans Memorial Park. Daniel Cunningham was killed during the war in Iraq.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe participated in the Brunswick Memorial Day parade, while Sen. Susan Collins delivered the keynote speech at a program in honor of American patriots following the parade in Bangor.

Gov. John Baldacci and U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud participated in the Bangor parade, and U.S. Rep. Tom Allen marched in the Windham parade and spoke at a ceremony after the parade in Portland.

Vietnam War veteran Ernest Shorey said it important for Americans to remember those who have died for the country. Shorey, who served nearly 25 years in the Army and Air Force, is a member of Portland’s American Legion Post 17, the sponsor of the city’s Memorial Day parade.

“You can’t forget what people have done in the past for us,” Shorey said. “It’s very important that we stop and do this.”

In Lewiston, Nancy Cunningham participated in the city’s Memorial Day parade and the dedication of the new park. Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, Coast Guard and POW-MIA flags were raised to half-staff on the park’s new flag poles.

Bert Dutil, chairman of the Lewiston-Auburn Veterans Council and a veteran of the Korean War, said it’s important to set aside a day for U.S. war victims, but he takes exception to the way a lot of stores have Memorial Day sales in the morning before towns have parades and ceremonies.

“For me it’s a day to pay respect to all the servicemen we’ve lost,” he said.

Memorial Day is also the unofficial kickoff to tourist season in Maine.

The wet weather put a damper on the weekend, with rain and cold causing many people to stay home in other states rather than venture to Maine.

Maine Turnpike officials said traffic counts during the weekend were down, but that final figures wouldn’t be available until Tuesday.

AP-ES-05-26-03 2124EDT

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