Retired Army 1st Sgt. Richard Cobb joins fellow veterans in placing flags at the graves of veterans at Forest City Cemetery in South Portland on Friday. Cobb will march in a one-man Memorial Day parade on Congress Street in Portland on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Retired Army 1st Sgt. Richard Cobb knew a Memorial Day parade in Portland was not an option this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the thought of letting the sacrifices of fallen soldiers go unrecognized did not sit well with him.

“This is the one time a year we have an opportunity to honor our veterans who led the way for us,” Cobb said. “Even going through this COVID situation, we can’t forget about our veterans. If it wasn’t for them paving the way for us and giving their all, we wouldn’t be here today.”

On Monday morning, Cobb, 62, will march from Longfellow Square to Monument Square in a one-man parade to lay a wreath at the Our Ladies of Victory monument. He will be escorted by two police vehicles.

“I’m going to represent all of our fallen soldiers and the veterans still with us. It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I think everyone will have their own feelings and opinions when they see one person by himself marching with the colors of our nation down Congress Street. It will remind them of what used to be.”

Limits on crowds larger than 10 have forced the cancellation of traditional Memorial Day parades and ceremonies, but veterans groups and municipal officials across Maine are finding other ways to honor fallen veterans.

In Portland, Memorial Day is usually marked with a parade and wreath-laying ceremonies at several locations around the city, said Joe Rich, a member of the American Legion Harold T. Andrews Post on Deering Street, which helps organize the annual events.

“We’re going to do those activities, but we’re doing them differently than usual,” Rich said. “We’re going to continue our commitment. It’s important for the Andrews Post to uphold the tradition that was given to us by the people who were there before.”

Those activities include putting more than 1,500 flags on the graves of veterans at Forest City Cemetery in South Portland. Cobb – a Bronze Star recipient who served in the Army for 20 years – was among the veterans who placed those flags on Friday.

Though people will not be able to gather together on Monday, Cobb said he would like them to pause and reflect on the significance of the day.

Rick Cobb joins fellow veterans in placing flags at the graves of veterans at Forest City Cemetery in South Portland. Army Retired 1st Sgt. Richard Cobb, 62, of Saco, will march in a one-man parade on Monday down Congress Street in Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“I’d like them to remember what life was before COVID-19 and what Memorial Day is all about,” he said.

Each federal veterans cemetery across the county will conduct a brief wreath-laying ceremony accompanied by a moment of silence and the playing of taps, but those ceremonies are closed to the public this year. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is inviting people to watch those ceremonies by livestream and to create online memorials for loved ones at the Veterans Legacy Memorial Website.

Togus VA Medical Center is not able to host a traditional Memorial Day ceremony at the facility, but a video is being produced to be posted on the facility’s website and Facebook page Monday. Togus’ cemeteries, with flags and wreaths placed on each headstone, will be open to the public on Memorial Day.

In Cape Elizabeth, the annual parade and ceremony at the town war veterans memorial will be replaced this year with a 12-minute video that was posted on the town website and police department Facebook page on Saturday.

Jim Huebener, Cape Elizabeth Memorial Day parade chairman, said he hopes families will use the video to remember in their own way the men and women who served in the military. The video includes a montage of photos and video clips set to the “Star-Spangled Banner,” “God Bless America” and readings of the Gettysburg Address and “In Flanders Fields.”

“As a community, we are still able to honor those who died in active military service, remembering all those who sacrificed to provide our freedoms today,” Huebener says in the video.

Rick Cobb joins fellow veterans in placing flags at the graves of veterans at Forest City Cemetery in South Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The city of Saco and Heart of Biddeford teamed up to produce an online presentation to replace the parade and ceremony held jointly in both cities each year. It will begin at 10 a.m. Monday with live speeches from Mayors William Doyle of Saco and Alan Casavant of Biddeford. Jessica Johnson of Biddeford and her son Julian will play taps.

It will continue with a prerecorded speech by Christian Basque, a physician at Southern Maine Health Care who served with the Navy in Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrain. His remarks will touch on how his service in the military prepared him to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, said Delilah Poupore, executive director of Heart of Biddeford.

Poupore said that while social distancing made it impossible to hold an in-person parade and ceremony, there was no question the communities wanted to honor those who fought and died for the United States.

“We believe this is a day for honoring people who served and died in service to our country. I think people are looking for a way to still participate,” she said.

Memorial Day is traditionally observed in Wells with a parade to Ocean View Cemetery, where a wreath is laid on the graves of two brothers who were killed in World War I. This year, the town is posting a video of a “virtual” Memorial Day parade that includes photos of parades from past years.

The Wells parade video will include songs performed by the Wells High School Select A Cappella Chorus. Members of the chorus sang their parts separately at home and they were compiled by director Bailey Smith. The virtual parade will be posted on the Wells Volunteers Facebook page Monday at 9 a.m., the time the parade would have started. It will be shared to other town department Facebook pages.

Rick Cobb joins fellow veterans in placing flags at the graves of veterans at Forest City Cemetery in South Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Memorial Garden at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday to allow visitors to honor airmen and women who gave their lives in service to their country, according to John Briley, executive director of the Brunswick Naval Aviation Museum. Visitors must wear masks and observe social distancing.

To observe Memorial Day, the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk created a “Vintage Memorial Day Parade” that will begin streaming on YouTube and Facebook at 11 a.m. Monday. It will include music and a look back at past Memorial Day parades.

In Lewiston, a ceremony to dedicate a new memorial stone in Veterans Memorial Park has been postponed from Monday to Veterans Day. The 32nd memorial stone was installed in the park last week. While there will be no Memorial Day ceremony this year, veteran Jerry Dewitt plans to play taps in the park on Monday.

The city of Lewiston recruited veterans groups and other volunteers to place nearly 7,500 flags by veterans’ gravestones at 13 cemeteries before Memorial Day.

Across the river in Auburn, a virtual celebration will be held Monday in place of what is usually the largest Memorial Day parade in the state.

American Legion Post 24 in Rumford cannot hold its annual parade and ceremony because of the pandemic. Instead, it will host a Facebook Live ceremony to honor the men and women who died while serving the country. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.

A longstanding tradition of having the Catholic bishop celebrate a Memorial Day Mass at either St. Peter’s Cemetery in Lewiston or Calvary Cemetery in South Portland will not be observed this year. Instead, a Mass with Bishop Robert Deeley will be live-streamed from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland at 9 a.m., the time it would have been celebrated at the cemetery.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: