Members of the South Portland War Veterans Association salute before veterans’ graves at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in South Portland. Photo by Michael Pock

SOUTH PORTLAND — Leaders at the American Legion Posts in South Portland and Scarborough both made sure to honor the fallen on Memorial Day, but due to coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings, celebrations were much smaller than usual.

“It was really pretty blah,” said Michael Pock, post adjutant at South Portland’s American Legion Post #35.

Still, Pock and about 30 post members fanned out throughout the town’s 11 cemeteries, keeping the delegation to each smaller than 10 people, per Gov. Janet Mills’ orders.

“We went in three different groups,” he said. “It was actually a lot faster and more efficient.”

The South Portland War Veterans Association placed small American flags on the graves of each known veteran in town. Some markers, Pock noted, date back to the Civil War. Volunteers also performed wreath-laying ceremonies at monuments throughout the city, including tossing one wreath into the Fore River from the public boat landing at Bug Light Park to honor veterans who were lost at sea.

In Scarborough, American Legion Post #76 Commander Phil Ceaser said small groups of 10 people or fewer placed about 6,000 flags on graves throughout the city, along with 40 new grave markers and a collection of monumental wreaths.

“It was not easy, because we usually do the Memorial Day parade,” he said.

But, Ceaser noted, Gov. Mills is expected to lift restrictions enough to allow groups of up to 50 people long before Veterans Day on Nov. 11. Both Ceaser and Pock said they look forward to making up for this week’s smaller gatherings.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to do a full-blown ceremony on Veterans Day,” Ceaser said.

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