LEWISTON — In Bill Stretton’s tight grasp Monday morning, the U.S. Army flag never faltered.

He wanted to contribute to the Veterans Day event at the Lewiston Armory — when representatives of so many military and veterans groups passed in review for the crowd of 300. His old Army uniform, from his days as a medical assistant in emergency rooms and operating rooms, still fit his lean frame, but he worried about the weakness on his right side.

Seven years ago he had a growth removed from his brain. It shook him up and left him with the lingering weakness and problems with such things as giving directions.

“People see me and they think I’m all better,” said Stretton, who lives in Lewiston.

But no one thought he looked weak as he walked without a misstep with his fellow Army vets. With him, ranging from teenagers to old men, walked members or former members of the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, police officers, firefighters and junior Air Force cadets from Lewiston High School. The Knights of Columbus and, for the first time, members of the Kora Temple Legion of Honor also marched.

Together, they outnumbered the people who filled the 150 chairs on the floor of the armory and the additional seats in the balcony.

Few folks without ties to the marchers attended, said organizer Jerry DeWitt, a veteran who served in Iraq.

“Mostly this has meaning for veterans,” said DeWitt, as the Just Us Singers stood on the stage and sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

DeWitt wished more everyday folks had attended to honor the veterans, he said. However, he felt worse that some vets were unable to attend because of their jobs.

Though banks were closed Monday, most retail stores and many other businesses remained open.

“There are vets who are working today,” DeWitt said. “If we want this holiday to have more meaning, we need to take this more seriously.”

However, he was pleased with the event, shaking hands with Stretton warmly after the procession.

To Stretton, Monday’s event was a chance to walk tall.

As a young man, he had served in the Marine Corps. He switched services to specialize in medicine.

As a civilian, he worked as the safety director for the city of Lewiston. He retired at 60, when he became ill.

“I’m broken down,” Stretton said.

But any cracks were covered by his Army uniform, his military posture and his determination. He held the flag.

In his care, it never fell.

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