Members of the color guard from VFW Post 6859 in Portland march down Congress Street during the Veterans Day parade on Saturday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

On a sunny but cold day, the annual Veterans Day parade marched down Portland’s Congress Street on Saturday.

The turnout was thin. At times, there were no spectators on either side of Congress Street to watch the parade. In other parts of the street closer to City Hall, there were more people waving flags and applauding the veterans, bands, cheerleaders, police officers and firefighters.

Among those who turned out was Alice Dunn, who for the first time closed her Portland Architectural Salvage store on Veterans Day to honor those who have served.

“My father was in the Korean War. I lost him a few years ago,” Dunn said. With the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, “we don’t realize how much we live in such a free country,” she said. “We’re protected.”

Unlike the United States, some countries have limited ability to protect themselves from warring enemies.

“As much as we have political mayhem all the time, the thing we do have is a strong military that protects us every day,” Dunn said.


Penny Rich, of Portland, was also there “to acknowledge and honor all veterans,” she said. “They deserve to be recognized.”

When she sees a veteran, a member of the military, a police officer or firefighters, “I thank them,” Rich said. It’s important, she said, to turn out for Veterans Day because “for a long time we didn’t show up, specifically for the Vietnam War” veterans. “I’m putting some energy in that.”

Jared Sawyer, 43, marched in the parade. He belongs to the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Portland and serves in the Maine Air National Guard. He noticed the turnout was “less than optimal. We’d love to see more support.”

For him, Veterans Day is a day to be of service to other veterans. He was able to do that, he said, because he made it back from overseas conflicts. “I lost track of how many times,” Sawyer said. In the Air Force, he was deployed in Iraq for a year and went to Afghanistan three times. “I’ve been to Qatar four or five times and to Turkey,” he said. “We’re the Air Force. We travel.”

Among the hardest parts of being deployed, Sawyer said, “was leaving family.”

David Biancullli, post commander of VFW Post 6859 in Portland, salutes during taps after placing a wreath on the World War I memorial at Portland City Hall during the Veterans Day ceremony on Saturday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Mary and Michael Verville, of Portland, stood on the sidewalk, applauding those in the parade. Mary’s father and uncles served in the Marines. Michael is also a veteran.


The holiday is “about the liberties, the freedom we have. It wouldn’t be the way it is today if it wasn’t for people who serve in the military, as well as police officers and firefighters,” he said, a flag tucked into his Air Force cap as he spoke. “Anybody who is serving their country, their community, deserves that recognition.”

On the other side of the street were a dozen members of Maine Veterans of Peace holding a banner: “Reclaim Armistice Day, Honor Veterans By Ending War, Wage Peace!” President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill in 1954 proclaiming Armistice Day as Veterans Day.

“It’s important that people see another side to Veterans Day,” not just people in uniforms, said member Richard Clement, 70, of Pittston. “We’re all veterans here. Our mission statement is to try to abolish war and live in a more peaceful world.”

He served in the Army from 1973-80. He did not go to Vietnam, but in Germany he met soldiers who came from fighting in Vietnam. At that time, “there was a lot of drug use and looking the other way by officers,” he said. He recalled one soldier returning from Vietnam who seemed broken, “and drank himself right out of the unit.” It was sad, he said.

As a citizen, Clement watched in the ’80s and ’90s and observed what his country was doing with “regards to wars around the world.” Clement said he worked to found the Veterans of Peace in Maine. The United States needs an armed military, he said, “but it’s overextended around the world.”

There are alternatives to war, he said. For instance, the war in Gaza, prompted by the Hamas militant group’s surprise assault on Israel last month. “What Hamas did was terrible,” he said. “But what Israel is doing is worse, killing these children. We need to speak out about this stuff.”


The parade concluded at the steps of City Hall.

About 75 people heard speeches given by Mayor-elect Mark Dion, Portland fire Chief Keith Gautreau, Portland historian Herb Adams and Ernest Shorey of the American Legion of Portland, which hosted the parade.

Dion praised veterans who he says know the difference between what they’d like to do and duty. “Veterans understand that moral choice better than most,” he said. Speaking of the veterans gathered, Dion said, “we stand among eagles.”

Adams recalled years ago when he spoke to a World War I veteran about the first Armistice Day. When the armistice agreement was signed between the Allies and Germany, it was a watershed moment because “it meant we would live,” the veteran told Adams. That agreement was signed on Nov. 11, 1918, “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” At 11 a.m. on Saturday, the bells rang 11 times at City Hall.

As the number of World War II veterans dwindles, and in a digital age, it’s important to remember and be grateful for sacrifices all veterans have made, Adams said. Today many veterans have different needs. “Hear their story, look into their eyes,” he said. “We must take care of them.”

John Kimball, of Portland, the grand marshal of this year’s parade. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The grand marshal of Saturday’s parade was John Kimball, 76, of Portland.


The recipient of two Purple Hearts and other military honors, Kimball enlisted in the Marines two weeks after graduating from Portland High School in 1966.

After basic training, he was sent to Vietnam as a rifleman. “I started out at Da Nang and ended up in Khe Sanh,” Kimball said. “I got wounded twice and was medevaced to Guam.”

He returned to Portland, worked for the Postal Service and retired in 2009.

Kimball didn’t speak at the podium but received a rousing applause when his story was shared.

He was modest about being chosen as the parade’s grand marshal.

“To me, it’s for all veterans who served in many conflicts,” Kimball said. “I’m just here representing all veterans.”

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