WILTON — Two services were held Sunday, May 26 to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while protecting their country.

Senator Russell Black, R-Wilton, at right speaks during a Memorial Day service held at Wilton’s Civil War Monument Sunday afternoon, May 26. Livermore Falls Advertiser photo by Pam Harnden

Some two dozen people gathered first at the Civil War Monument where Senator Russell Black, R–Wilton, spoke of the 1.3 million men and women who had given their lives during all wars, the 36,000 lost during the Korean War and the 58,000 from Vietnam.

“It can be all too easy for the true meaning of Memorial Day to get lost in the excitement of a long weekend, parades, barbecues and, in Maine, the beginning of warmer weather – otherwise known as black fly season.

“The rights and freedoms that we often take for granted are still under attack, both on our soil and abroad, which is why it is as important now to recognize the brave men and women who put their lives on the line daily to protect this great land that we all love so much,” Black said.

He said Memorial Day was first established by General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic following America’s bloodiest war, the Civil War, as a way to honor those who died in defense of their country.

Union Army Gen. James Garfield gave a speech to the more than 5,000 in attendance at Arlington Memorial Cemetery where more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were laid to rest.

It wasn’t until after World War I that Americans across the country began to honor the dead of all American wars with the celebration of Memorial Day.

“As Mainers, we know the price of freedom all too well. Our soldiers have heroically fought and died in every war from the Revolutionary War to today’s War on Terror.

“During the Civil War Maine played a critical role for the Union, supplying manpower, supplies, ships and arms for the U.S. Army. In 2011 Maine had the highest casualty rate, per capita, of any state in the nation in the war in Afghanistan.

“Our state continues to have one of the highest percentages of veterans in the United States. On this Memorial Day, please keep in mind that freedom, indeed, is not free,” Black said.

Korean War veteran Skip Thompson lays a wreath at Wilton’s Civil War Monument during a Memorial Day service Sunday, May 26. Livermore Falls Advertiser photo by Pam Harnden

Skip Thomson, a Korean War veteran who served two years in the Marine corps, laid a wreath at the base of the Civil War Monument. Rev. David W. Smith, pastor of Wilton’s First Congregational Church UCC, gave a prayer.

As rain began to fall, many of those in attendance made their way to the Wilton Lions Club Hall, formerly the American Legion Post.

Rep. Randy Hall at left spoke during a Memorial Day service at the Wilton Lions Club Hall Sunday, May 26. Senator Russell Black is also seen. Livermore Falls Advertiser photo by Pam Harnden

Rep. Randy Hall, R-Wilton said, “There is no greater service than military service. Every other calling is able to operate because the armed forces are there to provide security, stability and support the values and unity of our nation. They are our heroes.”

Hall then spoke of a Medal of Honor recipient from Sangerville, Maine, who served with the Union Army’s 6th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the Civil War.

“Otis O. Roberts received his Medal of Honor at the Second Battle of Rapannahock Station in Virginia on November 7, 1863.

“The 6th Maine lost 16 officers and 123 men that day. Sgt. Roberts captured the flag of the Confederate 8th Louisiana Infantry by engaging in a hand–to–hand struggle with the color bearer.

“Think of that for a moment. Hand to hand combat with several of his friends and comrades sacrificing their lives that day and over the course of the war.

“His actions, and what they represent, are the reason we gather on the last Monday of May so that we will not forget the sacrifices of those who have served our country, many of whom paid the ultimate price for the freedom we all enjoy today.

“May God bless those men and women, and the countless families who sacrificed along with them,” Hall said.

World War II veteran Cleon Fletcher laid a wreath in front of the World

World War II veteran Cleon Fletcher salutes after placing a wreath at the World War II Monument in Wilton Sunday, May 26 during a Memorial Day service. Livermore Falls Advertiser photo by Pam Harnden

War II Memorial. Fletcher served in the Air Force as an engineer with the 801st. He was pretty close to the operation of the atomic bombs.

“I’ve lived a full life,” Fletcher, who will be 92 in September, said.

Following a prayer by Rev. Smith, Paul Harnden played Taps after which his father, Nathan Harnden, sounded the echo.

Everyone was then invited to a light luncheon in the Lions Club Hall.

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