As we approach the Memorial Day weekend I thought it appropriate to remind everyone why we celebrate this special holiday. I also wanted to highlight the various organizations that come together for Scarborough’s annual celebration each year.

Memorial Day was borne out of the American Civil War and was first observed in 1868 as Decoration Day out of a desire to honor the memory of military personnel who died in war by decorating their graves with flowers. For several years, separate competing Confederate and Union holiday traditions were celebrated on separate days. Eventually those celebrations were merged and celebrated on May 30th in honor of all who have died in military service. In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act which created the modern Monday (long weekend) holiday system we are accustom to and Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday in May regardless of the date.

Some question the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is when we remember the men and women who died while serving our country in the military, while Veterans Day celebrates the service and sacrifice of all U. S. military veterans.

The fire and police departments also pause to remember the men and women we have lost who faithfully served our organizations and the citizens of Scarborough. Each spring just before Memorial Day, the fire department places over 350 memorial flags in grave markers not only in our local cemeteries, but on former member’s graves in dozens of others across the state. The police similarly recognize their fallen comrades.

Each spring, the proud men and women of Scarborough’s Libby-Mitchell Post #76 of the American Legion organize our community’s Memorial Day activities to remember and honor their comrades who died in service to our country. The celebration starts at 8 a.m. with a short but meaningful ceremony at the Black Point Cemetery. The American Legion Color Guard and Fire Department Honor Guard participate in these services where wreaths are placed on the monuments, a prayer is read, the Legion’s Firing Squad salutes the dead, and Taps is played by members of the High School Band. From there, the group moves to similar ceremonies at the Dunstan Monument, then the Dunstan and Scarborough Memorial Cemeteries.

At 9:30 a.m., the Police Department Honor Guard joins the group for a flag raising and Pledge of Allegiance at Memorial Park as the various groups gather in the High School parking lot in preparation for the annual Memorial Day Parade. Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, the Legion had to cancel Scarborough’s Memorial Day Parade due to COVID pandemic restrictions. That painful decision was made a few weeks ago prior to some of the very recent changes in US CDC and state guidance.

The parade historically ends upon arrival at the Maine Veterans’ Homes-Scarborough where the groups assemble in front of the veterans and members of the public for a final ceremony including a keynote speaker. This year the Legion and honor guards will continue the tradition of the individual ceremonies at the monuments and cemeteries as well as at the Maine Veterans’ Home. It won’t be the normal large public event we are accustom to, but it will be a meaningful recognition of those that gave their life in service to our country and our community.

Traditional events like Scarborough’s Memorial Day Parade are an important part of our community. Everyone loves a parade, but it is important to teach our youth the importance of community and the significance and true meaning of Memorial Day. It is to honor those veterans who gave their life in defense of our county. Thank you to the Members of Libby-Mitchell Post #76 and all the groups and individuals who help us celebrate this very special holiday. We all hope that next year we will be able to get back to our more traditional parade and community celebration.

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