SCARBOROUGH — Rows of men in wheelchairs lined the entrance walkway of the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough on Monday morning as if in rank and file one more time, in remembrance of their military service long ago.
Many wore caps with the names of the wars in which they served. A few of the more able-bodied stood to salute the flag, while others saluted from their wheelchairs during a ceremony that honored them and all other veterans.
“Memorial Day, for this generation, is a very big event,” said Maureen Carland, the home’s administrator. “This is a solemn day. This is a day of remembrance. I think we sometimes forget what Memorial Day is all about. It’s about veterans, and we need to remember that.”
Communities around Maine held Memorial Day parades and ceremonies Monday morning, each with its own traditions for honoring men and women who have served the country.
In Scarborough, the tradition since the Maine Veterans’ Home was built 23 years ago has been the parade along Route 1, which ends outside the assisted-living facility with a ceremony to honor veterans.
The home in Scarborough, one of six Maine Veterans’ Homes around the state, provides services to 150 people, most of them veterans and some who are family members of veterans.
“Today, the United States of America pauses to pay homage to the men and women who have died to make sure our nation stays strong,” said Carland, the ceremony’s opening speaker. “We are surrounded by men and women who have spent years of their lives in service.”
The keynote speaker, former Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers, addressed the crowd after some band music, a volley of gunfire and a prayer.
“Memorial Day is a day to take stock in the present, to reflect on the past and renew our commitments to the future of America,” said Summers, an Iraq War veteran. “America is strong and good because there have always been men and women willing to serve a cause greater than themselves.”
Scarborough’s annual parade shuts down Route 1, moving from Scarborough High School downhill less than half a mile to the Maine Veterans’ Home.
Many spectators arrived early Monday, bringing folding chairs to watch from either side of the usually busy road.
Andrew and Tatiana Hubbard brought their daughters, Alexa, 3, and Kaylee, 2, to see the girls’ first parade ever. It also was a first for the parents, who had never seen Scarborough’s parade.
“We just moved here,” said Andrew Hubbard. “We got a break in the weather,” after a rainy weekend. “It’s a beautiful day to be out.”
Bruce and Peggy Thurlow have gone to the annual parade so many times that they have lost count.
Their son is the town’s fire chief. Their grandson is on the town’s police force. And other family members march in the parade.
“The parade is a really fun parade,” said Bruce Thurlow, a Scarborough native. “But the cream of the cake is the kids.”
Bruce Thurlow said the ceremony at the Maine Veterans’ Home makes the day special.
He said that, years ago, a speaker at the annual ceremony called on those in the crowd to turn and shake the hand of any World War II veteran. He turned to his neighbor, shook his hand and thanked him.
His neighbor told him that was the first time anyone had thanked him for serving in World War II.
“I fell between Korea and Vietnam. I got papers and had to sign but never got inducted,” Thurlow said. “I have such respect for what they’ve done.”
Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at [email protected]