Korean War veteran Charles Tibbetts honors the fallen by himself on an empty Main Street in Yarmouth on Monday. Normally there’s a parade on Memorial Day. Photo courtesy of Amy Sinclair

Elected officials, veterans and the public observed the first socially distant Memorial Day on Monday, devoid of the parades and graveside gatherings typically held to honor the nation’s fallen soldiers.

Gov. Janet Mills and members of Maine’s congressional delegation released statements honoring the nation’s fallen military personnel and acknowledging the unusual circumstances of this year’s holiday.

In Yarmouth, the members of the American Legion Post 91 raised 80 flags on the town green that once draped the coffins of American soldiers, including four who were killed in action, a nearly 20-year tradition.

But this year, there was no parade, and the lonely sound of taps rang out for few to hear when the banners reached full staff Monday morning, said Bert Kendall, the 1st Vice Commander of Post 91. He said there were a dozen Yarmouth firefighters on hand, along with a smattering of veterans.

“We had a short ceremony,” Kendall said. “At the end, just for fun, we went out to Main Street and waved the small flags and people honked.”

In Portland, a lone veteran – retired 1st Sgt. Richard Cobb, a 20-year Army veteran and Bronze Star recipient – marched down Congress Street and laid a wreath in Monument Square. He was accompanied by a police escort, and unlike years past, there were no crowds lining the curbside.

Some elected officials, who regularly attend ceremonies and speak during national holidays, instead released statements.

“Normally, we’d recognize Memorial Day with parades to celebrate our freedom as Americans, and to remember those who died fighting for it,” said U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District. “Though this year will look different than most, I hope each one of us can take a moment this Memorial Day to honor those who have given their lives so we could live ours. Our service members have made tremendous sacrifices so we could be free – and for some, this includes their lives. We are here today thanks to those who cannot be.”

U.S. Sen. Angus King released a short video on social media, urging the public to take a moment – a sacred moment – to remember the lives and sacrifices of those who served and died to protect the country.

“Stop and think about for a minute, people who – when they sign that piece of paper, they’re putting their lives on the line for the rest of us,” King said in the video. “And that’s why they deserve so much respect and thanks from all of us. … Memorial Day is a time to remember, a time to reach out to family, and a time to think about what a wonderful place and what an opportunity we have to live in this country because of the sacrifices of those who came before.”

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