FARMINGTON — As the sun shone across Franklin County on Monday morning, many turned out to remember veterans of the past and those serving today in services held in Jay and Livermore Falls, Wilton and Farmington.

While Memorial Day is still seen as the start of summer and a day for barbecues, “There’s been a shift in our thinking,” state Rep. Russell Black said at the Wilton service of the day to remember and honor veterans. “Perhaps it’s our shared experience of having our young people fight in lands like Afghanistan.”

This was the first Memorial Day service held in Wilton for a number of years, organizer state Sen. Thomas Saviello said.

With about 50 people present for the service, Lt. Commander Mark Brennick of Wilton, who serves in the U.S. Coast Guard, New York Sector at Staten Island, told the gathering to “look around” after he asked what our veterans fought for … “freedom for all of us.”

“More than 20 million have served this nation in uniform,” Brennick said. “We can’t forget their sacrifice.”

It’s a day to remember, honor, respect and to rejoice, he said of the 1.5 million troops in active duty — a number that about equals those who have died in conflict. It doesn’t include the wounded, who would bring the numbers closer to 4 million, he said.

Bernadette (Van Heck) Harvell of Farmington remembers the stories told by her parents of soldiers who came to help free their neutral Netherlands in 1944. The small country was conquered in 1940, suffering four years of Nazi occupation. It was a time when her countrymen came to understand the horrors of war and the crushing loss of freedom.

“I stand before you as a benefactor of the sacrifices that the U.S. and other soldiers have been paying around the globe for more than a century now,” she said during a service held at the American Legion Post 28 in Farmington. “Some may not be aware that American soldiers are indeed the first Americans that many of us from other countries meet.”

The first American Harvell met was her husband, state Rep. Lance Harvell of Farmington, who was a soldier. The couple have been married 26 years, she said.

Following the service, many watched and clapped as veterans participated in a parade up Main Street to Meetinghouse Park, where wreaths were laid.

Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and its auxiliary and the Knights of Columbus participated in services starting at the bridge in Livermore Falls, then on to Livermore, Jay and Livermore Falls on Monday. A parade was then held on Main Street in Jay.

As members of the Knights of Columbus stood at guard, VFW member Michael Collins and Shirley Braley, auxiliary president, laid a wreath at the POW/MIA monument at the bridge in Jay.

The service then moved on to Jay Hill Cemetery, where VFW member John Dube told those gathered that during this year of the 60th anniversary of the Korean conflict, six Korean veterans are buried there.

Pastor Don Smith of the Jay Baptist Church led the gathering in prayer, and Gail Dube and Annabelle Collins laid wreaths. The RSU 73 high school band marched up Route 4 from the town office and played during the service.

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