PORTLAND – Jim Lacey of Portland remembers when he and other military veterans didn’t feel very appreciated.

But that wasn’t the case Thursday as he sat in his wheelchair beside Congress Street and watched the annual Veterans Day parade.

“Every year it gets better,” said Lacey, a 67-year-old who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. “It feels good.”

Hundreds of local residents lined the parade route on the clear, crisp morning, many waving small American flags.

Gray-haired veterans and young men and women in camouflage uniforms — members of the University of Southern Maine Army ROTC — led the parade, which also included fifers and drummers dressed in Civil War uniforms, a marching band from Deering and Portland high schools, and groups of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

“I love the bagpipes,” Lacey said. The vet, who attached an American flag to the back of his wheelchair, also said he was pleased to see the crowd. “You see a lot more people than you used to,” he said.

The parade was followed by a ceremony and the playing of taps at City Hall.

Portland Mayor Nicholas Mavodones and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, spoke and thanked veterans. Aides also read statements from Maine’s Republican U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of whom said the nation needs to keep the promises made to its servicemen and women.

The ceremonies in southern Maine coincided with a memorial service in Houlton for Marine Corps 1st Lt. James Zimmerman, who died Nov. 2 in Afghanistan. U.S. flags flew at half staff across the state Thursday, and Zimmerman’s death on the battlefield was a clear reminder of the sacrifices made by veterans and their families.

“It’s a very important day,” said Bill Ingraham, a Maine Army National Guard veteran and commander of Amvets Post 25 who served as grand marshal of the Portland parade. “It’s honoring those who served, and some of those made the ultimate sacrifice. This isn’t a celebration. It’s to remember them.”

It was the first Veterans Day parade for 8-year-old Joseph Chadbourne of Portland. “It was cool” to see the older veterans march by, he said.

“He knows the sacrifices that they’ve made,” said Tom Chadbourne, Joseph’s father. “The least we can do is come out here.”

Jane Abbott of Cumberland brought her four young children — including 3-year-old triplets — as she has in past years.

“I just want to give them an idea of what the soldiers do for our country,” she said. “They don’t really know how lucky we are.”

Pingree told the crowd at City Hall that the people serving the country now include more mothers and fathers, in addition to young men and women. Veterans are making difficult sacrifices to preserve peace and freedom and “we must also deliver on the promises we have made to those who have served,” she said. “The debt we owe our veterans truly can never be repaid.”

Snowe and Collins, in written statements, also thanked veterans and emphasized the need to provide them with health care and other services.

“Veterans Day serves as a reminder that America has made promises to its veterans that we must honor,” Snowe wrote.

“This Veterans Day,” Collins wrote, “let us remember those who have sacrificed so much and honor their service through words and actions that proclaim our gratitude.”

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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