On Nov. 11 in the United States, and in nations around the world, we pause to remember our veterans of military service on Veterans Day. Originally named Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, in honor of the cessation of hostilities that took effect at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, the day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954, by the United States Congress.

In conflicts before and since 1918, Mainers have answered the call of duty. As of 2017, Maine was home to more than 114,000 veterans — nearly twice the national percentage of people who have served. During the Civil War, Maine contributed over 70,000 service members to the war effort; nearly 10,000 lost their lives. During World War I, 32,000 Mainers shipped out to Europe, many more contributed to the war effort at home, and just over 1,000 were KIA or MIA. World War II saw 80,000 Mainers ship out to the European and Pacific war theaters, with nearly 2,200 falling in battle. In Korea, 242 Mainers made the ultimate sacrifice. In Vietnam, nearly 350 Mainers were killed.

Whereas Memorial Day honors veterans who died in service, Veterans Day honors all veterans who have served honorably in wartime and peacetime. Collectively, these days of remembrance serve as important reminders throughout the year of the sacrifices that veterans have made for our freedom, and in this way help to ensure future generations never forget.

Veterans Day in particular takes place at an important time of the year. It comes at the beginning of the holiday season — a time when the separation from loved ones currently serving and the loss of loved ones who have passed away is perhaps most profound. This holiday season, the Biddeford community will have a new opportunity to join together in honoring its veterans with a special act of remembrance: National Wreaths Across America Day.

For the first time, Biddeford will host National Wreaths Across America Day events at five participating cemeteries on Saturday, Dec. 19. Volunteers will place a hand-crafted, Maine-made balsam wreath on more than 2,800 Biddeford veterans’ gravestones. Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission — Remember, Honor, Teach — is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at thousands of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states, including as of this year, Biddeford.

Our company, Brown Dog Carriers and Logistics, believes in doing everything we can to make our community here in Biddeford a better place. Like many of you, we know veterans; we employ veterans; and we have loved ones who are veterans. We are proud to be able to help bring Wreaths Across America Day to Biddeford this year, made possible by the generous support of a coalition of local businesses, donors, and volunteers. If you are interested in joining this effort, visit www.browndogcarriers.com/wreaths.

This Veterans Day, I would ask you to consider wearing a poppy — the universal symbol of military sacrifice — and think of ways that you can answer the call of duty, as Americans and as Mainers, to be there for a veteran you know or honor a fallen veteran during this season. To quote Lt. Com. John McCrae, who died in World War I, “to you from failing hands we throw, the torch; be yours to hold it high.”

Darrell Pardy is director of development at Brown Dog Carriers & Logistics, a Biddeford-based trucking company that annually volunteers to deliver wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery for Wreaths Across America and supports several veterans organizations throughout the year. For more information, visit www.browndogcarriers.com

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