LEWISTON — After a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, early clouds and a threat of rain did not deter the Lewiston-Auburn Memorial Day Parade from happening Saturday morning.

Nor did the weather discourage scores of young and old from viewing a host of military veteran units, posts, chapters and detachments, together with Gold Star Mothers and Boy Scouts, from participating.

The sun broke through as the parade began at Simones’ Hot Dog Stand on Chestnut Street, then went down Lisbon Street to Main Street and crossed into Auburn via Longley Bridge before returning across the bridge to Veterans Memorial Park.

The Lewiston/Auburn Veterans Council, which organized the event, then held an hour-long ceremony in the park featuring U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who said, “Remembrance, that’s what it is really all about . . . remembrance of those that sacrificed so we can all be here.”

King opened his remarks by stating that the Star Spangled Banner is the only national anthem which ends with a question mark.

“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

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“To me,” King said, “the answer is we can only be the land of the free as long as we are home to the brave … today is all about the brave.”

Kim Sylvester, a retired registered nurse from Auburn, said her mother was a first lieutenant army nurse stationed in Florence, Italy, during the Second World War.

Her father was in a mortar battalion who landed at Utah Beach at the end of June 1944 and survived all the major campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge, until Germany surrendered.

“They didn’t talk much,” Sylvester said about their experiences until she helped her parents prepare for the World War II reunions. “That’s when it started to hit home.”

Sylvester has organized several trips to Normandy Beach for friends and relatives. She has heard former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump speak at D-Day commencements in France.

Sabattus residents George Burgoyne, an army veteran who served in Korea and Germany, and his wife, Doris, have long been active in veterans organizations.

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“Never miss a Memorial Day,” Doris Burgoyne said. “We’re diehards.”

Bill Knowles of Lewiston said his dad was in the Merchant Marine. “Always had respect for the military,” he added.

Claire Poirier, a Marine Corps League member enlisted in the Marines in 1959, did basic training in Parris Island, South Carolina, and was later stationed in Quantico, Virginia. Poirier was the first female Maine Marine Reservist, where she met her husband.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “But it was fun.”

Christy Gardner, a retired army sergeant, was severely injured in 2006 and worked with a service dog while in therapy. Gardner is the founder of Mission Working Dogs and assists in training service dogs for post-traumatic stress disorder and mobility assistance.

Gardner, a graduate of Edward Little High School, has 43 dogs in training and 75% of her clients are veterans, she said.

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Retired U.S. Air Force veteran Kevin Michaud placed a wreath on the monument in Veterans Memorial Park on behalf of 135 Canadian veterans who are buried in and around Lewiston.

For eight years, Michaud has been the caretaker of the gravesite of Medal of Honor Recipient Navy Gunnery Mate George Leland at Riverside Cemetery in Lewiston.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, Leland served in the Navy during the Civil War. He was awarded the medal for being one of five Civil War sailors who helped free their grounded warship during the Battle of Charleston Harbor in South Carolina in 1863.

After the war, Leland moved to Lewiston and worked for Bates Mill. He died in 1880.

Near the end of the program, chaplains from several veterans organizations read aloud names of area veterans who passed away in 2021 and 2022.


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