PORTLAND — It may have rained on the parade, but the precipitation didn’t stop the annual Veterans Day observance Friday.
Dozens of marchers representing veterans, military units and the city’s police and fire departments made the trek down Congress Street from Longfellow Square to City Hall on Friday morning under low clouds, intermittent rain and a chilly wind.
About 150 stayed around for a ceremony in front of City Hall with a handful of speakers reminding people of the importance of honoring and thanking military veterans on their day.
Herb Adams, a historian and former state representative, noted that Friday’s observance was almost 70 years to the day from the sinking of the USS Reuben James, a destroyer that was hit by torpedoes from a German submarine while escorting a convoy to England that had originally started out in Portland.
Adams noted that the sinking, which killed 115 of the 159-man crew, nearly plunged the U.S. into war with Germany. About a month later, the U.S. was in World War II after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.
Adams said the fact that most people have never heard of the Reuben James should provide some guidance for the proper way for non-veterans to observe the holiday.
“Shake the hands (of veterans) and hear the stories and pass them along,” he said.
Among the hundreds of spectators during the parade, one person hasn’t missed the annual march in 42 years.
Edward Libby of Scarborough said he’s been to every Veterans Day parade in Portland since he was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1969. He even marched for a few years with the local chapter of the Marine Corps League.
Libby, now 69, served for three years, including six months in Vietnam, where he helped drop propaganda leaflets from the back of a helicopter.
He said he’d be more interested in attending a Marine Corps reunion than a high school reunion.
“It was a great experience,” Libby said. “I liked the discipline, I liked the camaraderie.”
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]