AUBURN — Personalize Memorial Day, that was the message given by Lt. Col. Paul Bosse of the Maine National Guard at the Memorial Day ceremony at Mt. Auburn Cemetery on Monday.

“For many veterans here today or those watching online I’m sure Memorial Day has a similar meaning to them,” Bosse said. “We don’t remember the fallen as nameless, faceless masses who died serving this great nation. We’ve uttered their names, you remember their faces because we call them friends, they are our brothers in arms.”

Bosse lost friends in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“With modern technology, we have untold information available at our fingertips,” he said. “I implore each person listening today to take five or 10 minutes of their time to personalize this Memorial Day. Look up a deceased veteran; better yet look one up from the local area and then contemplate their loss and impact on the community and their family. This somber act I’m sure will fully empathize the true cost of war.”

“While I choose to remember my friends lost in America’s most recent wars, I encourage you to look up the uncle who died in Vietnam or the grandfather you never knew because he died in World War II,” Bosse said. “You see, the best way to honor all of our service members is to keep their individual memories alive.”

Paul L’Heureux, who served in the Navy in Holy Loch, Scotland, said he does his best to personalize a serviceman’s loss 365 days of the year.

“I am the state’s adjutant for the Legion so I live and breathe this seven days a week,” he said after the ceremony. “If I’m not at a funeral, I’m at the State House making sure the veterans are taken care of here in the state of Maine as well as our Washington (DC) office as well.”

Auburn May Jason Levesque said he had similar feelings as he served eight years in the Army.

“I think about my service and what I contributed, my friends who some of have passed (away),” Levesque said after the ceremony. “I think about my grandfather who was a World War II veteran who since has passed away. It really taught me a lot about sacrifice and patriotism and doing the right thing.”

Levesque spoke and laid a wreath along with Bethel Shields, a Gold Star Mother and Bosse at the Veterans Memorial at Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

At the start of the ceremony, Edward Desgrosseilliers, a retired chief petty officer in the Navy and master of ceremonies Monday, noted the service people who didn’t die in combat but from diseases and accidents.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Levesque said it was important to hold an in-person ceremony.

“Considering the time we are in right now, it was absolutely critical in my mind that we have this in person because if you consider who we are honoring and their sacrifices that they made, our sacrifices today pale in comparison,” he said. “So, the least we can do is appropriately go out and honor them, memorialize their sacrifices. That’s why we had a limited ceremony and we streamed it live so people can really understand and appreciate what we are doing.”

In Lewiston, Jerry DeWitt led a ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street.

DeWitt spent 28 years in the Army in the medical field and is a veterans’ outreach specialist at Tri-County Mental Health Services and chairman of the L&A Veterans Council.

“It means the same to me every year,” DeWitt said. “It’s remembering the people who are no longer with us who have served in our military, saved this country and made it (into) what it is.”

The remembrances include a Maine Monument salute, a rifle salute and a short prayer.

Before the ceremony, nearly 7,500 U.S. flags were put on veterans’ graves at 13 cemeteries.

The 32nd memorial stone was installed at the Veterans Memorial Park last week. An official dedication will likely happen on Veterans Day in November.

“It’s kind of sad that we can’t have a ceremony and a parade which we have had in years past,” Joyce Richmond, a Gold Star motherm said. “That’s part of the deal of honoring our fallen veterans. It’s still a good day like we were putting up flags and this young couple came up and offered to help and did quite (a bit). People want to honor the veterans. Hopefully next year we will have a ceremony and a parade to honor them. This year it’s a little special too because people aren’t coming to be entertained, they are coming to pay their respects and I think that’s a good thing.”

Staff photographer Andree Kehn also contributed to this story.

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