CARIBOU (AP) – A few drops fell from the sky but the rain held off for the formal dedication of the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

“This is it, a dream that has finally become a reality. This is what we have been working for,” said Peter Miesberger, one of the supporters of the project. “Standing here is a very humble man, and a dream has happened.”

Miesberger appeared to ward off more when he looked up and said, “It ain’t going to rain on my parade.”

More than 250 people attended Sunday’s ceremony, many dressed in business suits with hats depicting military organizations to which they belonged or wearing military uniforms or military fatigues.

“Our veterans deserved a final resting place close to their own,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said. “Let us be grateful to our veterans,” she said, “especially those who gave their last true measure.”

Thanks to the 20-acre cemetery, which has room for 4,500 veterans and spouses, northern Maine veterans no longer will have to drive five hours to Augusta to bury their comrades in arms. A third veterans cemetery is planned for southern Maine in the next couple of years.

The cemetery is part of a nation’s debt to veterans, and it is a small token of appreciation, Maj. Charles L. McFarland, 1st Battalion, 152nd Field Artillery, said during the dedication.

“This gift recognizes that we will be reunited in death as we were as comrades,” said Brig. Gen. Bill Libby, Maine’s deputy adjutant general. “Maine shares her sons and daughters well to the military.”

Maine has a large number of veterans for its small population. Only Alaska, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming have a greater percentage of adults who are veterans, according to the Census Bureau.

The idea for the Northern Maine Veterans Commemorative Cemetery was conceived in 1998, and the Northern Maine Veterans Commemorative Cemetery Corp. was established in January 1999.

The project was advanced when John and Joyce Noble donated 33 acres of their family homestead to the project.

A federal grant paid for the construction. Day-to-day operations will be funded by the Maine Department of Veterans Services.

AP-ES-06-02-03 0800EDT

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