MEXICO — Dozens of residents gathered in the Mountain Valley Middle School lecture hall Tuesday morning for the annual Veterans Day ceremony by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1641.

The ceremony began with a prayer, delivered by Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant, followed by a musical performance by the Rumford Association for the Advancement of Performing Arts.

State Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford, the guest speaker, said he was “truly honored and blessed to be here.

“Some of the best times of my life as a representative is when I get to say ‘thank you’ to the veterans,” he said. “Today is a time for all of us to reflect on the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have given so much to us.”

Patrick started his speech with a story about when he was a “46-year-old rookie” serving on the Legal and Veterans Affairs committee.

“I’ve served on that committee since I was a rookie back in 2000,” Patrick said. “In January of 2000, I met a female veteran who said that she wanted to teach me one thing. ‘What’s that?’ I asked her.

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“She said, ‘When you’re on this committee, if you see someone with a shirt or a uniform or a jacket that says the word veteran on it, you go up to that person and thank them for their service,’” Patrick said. “She told me that they only have one or two days a year when we get to thank them, and if they’re not wearing their colors or their military clothes, we don’t know that they’re veterans.”

Patrick said, “Whenever I’m in Burger King or Wal-Mart or anywhere else in public, and I see someone walking by with a military insignia on, I make sure to stop them and thank them for their service. It really means an awful lot to them.”

Later in his speech, Patrick said that he remembers growing up in a generation where “veterans’ ceremonies were a communitywide event, and everyone came because we all knew how important it was to honor our troops.

“I’m disappointed to see that, as time has passed, fewer and fewer people are willing to take the time to thank our veterans,” Patrick said before looking at the crowd and adding, “I thank all of you for being here today to do that.”

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