Less than a year after being hit by a string of vandalism, the Windham Veteran’s Center opened its doors and its newly renovated park to the public on Saturday for a Veterans Day ceremony.

The ceremony kicked off at 11 a.m. sharp on Nov. 11. The Boy Scouts of Windham’s Troop 805 acted as the color guard for the ceremony, raising the American flag to the top of the pole and then lowering it to half-mast in honor of America’s servicemen and women.

“This is one of my favorite holidays,” keynote speaker Rep. Gary Moore, R-Standish, said from behind the podium. “No presents to buy, no kids banging on the door for candy.”

However, Moore added, Veterans Day exists because people were willing to sacrifice their lives.

“That debt is endless, and can never be repaid,” he said. Moore serves on the Legal and Veterans’ Affairs Committee in the state legislature and served for four years in the Air Force.

The First World War officially ended in 1918 at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The day was then recognized as the international holiday Armistice Day.

In 1954 the holiday was renamed Veterans Day in America. It is known as Remembrance Day in Canada and the United Kingdom today.

While similar to the May holiday Memorial Day, Veterans Day celebrates all members of the armed services, past and present, while Memorial Day honors those who have died.

“It really chokes me up to see the people appreciate what we do and what we’ve given up,” Staff Sergeant Mary Reutlinger, who has spent more than 20 years in the Army.

This was the first event held at the Windham Veteran’s Center since vandals smashed the windows and destroyed some of the young trees in the yard last winter.

“It’s a shame what some of the vandals have done to this place. It’s absolutely atrocious,” said Lawrence Wescott, 78, of Windham. Wescott served in the Navy at the tail end of World War II and two years of the Korean War.

Windham Veterans Association President Don Swander, 72, of Windham, said the local community came together and helped restore the building and grounds.

Windham resident Col. Don McCormack, 49, said he believes the increased presence of people the veteran’s center now enjoys should keep vandals away in the future. McCormack is the chief of the joint staff for the Maine Air National Guard.

Swander, who is also the commander of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, said he was thankful for the great progress volunteers have made in building the park area where the ceremony was held. Besides laying sod and planting new maple trees, park builders have erected 11 stone benches.

Each bench is valued at $400 and has a metal plaque inscribed with the name of a veteran. Ten of the benches were paid for by the families of the inscribed veterans and the Windham Historical Society donated the eleventh. Flowers were laid on the benches during Saturday’s ceremony.

The park is only halfway completed, according to David Tanguay, commander of the American Legion Post 148. Floral beds, bronze plaques, a line of shrubs and a picnic area are planned for the future, Tanguay said Saturday.

Don Swander, 72, speaks during the VeteranMembers of Boy Scout Troop 805 raise the flag during the Windham VeteranMembers of Boy Scout Troop 805 raise the flag outside during the Windham Veteran

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